My mother savored memories. Like leftovers from a Thanksgiving dinner, they were the kind of thing she chewed on for a week, rehashed, reimagined and reinvented as she found new things to reflect on.
A few years after my father died, I threw her a surprise birthday party at her house that was attended by several family members and friends. Mom was truly caught off guard and seemed pleased by the whole thing. Although I stayed behind to chat and to clean up after everyone went home, she still called me 15 minutes later (as I was walking through the front door of my own home) in order to thank me again, tell me how much she enjoyed herself and to relive the night all over again.
“So how did you know when the house would be empty?” She asked.
“Oh, right before you and your friend Jack went out for dinner, I had them ask to use the restroom so that they could call me from their cell phone,” I replied.
“He called you from the bathroom?”
“No mom, he dialed my number and let the phone ring once. That was the signal that you were leaving,” I replied.
She wanted to know how long it took me to plan it, where I bought the decorations, what bakery was responsible for the delicious cake, how many people I’d invited and who all was not able to attend.
“Why in the world would you want to know that?” I countered. “You had a houseful of people who love you and wanted to celebrate you. Why focus on the people who couldn’t make it?”
I later realized that wasn’t her point at all. For her, a surprise birthday party in September was the kind of thing that would tide her over until Halloween when she would count the number of Trick-or-Treaters she had, offer up a running commentary of how many looked “too old” to be out and lament the carloads of kids who were imported from nearby neighborhoods. Afterward she turned her attention toward Turkey Day, helping to organize my menu, tell me where the best deals were and double check the plans. After the meal was over, we’d go over everything again until I often felt as though we were having the same conversation on repeat.
As my world becomes more virtual, I’ve discovered that I also miss having long conversations with someone chewing over something that just happened. Today, I can’t even ask my friends went, about their vacation because I experienced it in real time via social media.
This month, let us be grateful for those memories that we make and experience in the here and now. Let us turn from the technology and be in the moment. Let us call the person after the fact and tell them how much we enjoyed the celebration they worked so hard to arrange rather than simply giving it a thumbs up on a web page.
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