Sunday, December 20, 2009
Where's the Star?
We all need some ties to back there. We need some stack pole of remembering that sends us back, back toward yesterday and the past and our roots. What’s your star? Probably not a paste ornament. What is it that calls you back to what used to be with a tug and a pull that is almost magic? I have a buddy who keeps high on a shelf an old threadbare teddy bear. Some of the stuffing is missing and one eye has been lost. His Daddy bought it for him at the fair one time. They stood there looking at the wonderful stuffed animals and he pointed and his Daddy shook his head. The little boy burst into tears and snubbed and snubbed. Finally the Father sighed took out his billfold and handed the clerk the money. His Daddy has been dead for more than thirty years, yet that teddy bare are one of his most precious possessions. I have another friend, long gone now, that kept an old pouch of chewing tobacco pinned to the bookcase behind his desk. He told me he grew up in this little tiny cotton mill village and smoke breaks were few and far between. Almost everybody then chewed tobacco in the mill. The man has written a score of books. He taught hundreds of students. And he always kept a pouch of chewing tobacco as a reminder of how far he had come and how grateful he was. Five years ago I stopped by to see the old black lady that we would now call a Nanny. She kept my brother and me for years and loved us fiercely. As I started to leave she told me she wanted to show me something. She opened a dresser drawer and pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper. She unfolded the yellowing paper and held up a slip. “Miz Ruth give me this slip. She always gave me the nicest presents.” She had never worn it but she kept it and remembered.
Christmas is a time for stirring memories. Silver Bells. Silent Night. Santa Claus is coming to town. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. O Come All Ye Faithful. But this season is much, much more. The faces loom up before us. Names of those long dead get mixed up with fun-filled times from our crowded pasts. Christmas is a remembering time.
Some of us hang the symbols of our memories on a Christmas tree. Some pack them away in tissue paper. Some place these mementoes carefully in a jewelry box and open it up from time to time and just smile. Some just keep our treasures tucked away in our hearts.
“Where’s the star?” Good question. Unpack it gently. Hang it high in your own way. And remember. Remember. Remember.
(This article appeared first in the Op Ed section of the Sunday Birmingham News, 12/20/09)