Memory is a tricky thing - mostly static, but with a little elastic around the edges. It can stretch and bend and change shape and texture over the years.
I've been neck deep in memory lately; most of my summer has been spent researching my family history. That research has helped me establish a timeline for my earliest memories.
It was the fall of 1972, perhaps Halloween or Thanksgiving. I remember standing in my grandparents' house just outside of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My sister held my hand and stood beside me as my grandfather spoke to me. Grandpap was clearly not feeling well - he was in pajamas and laying in bed. I remember his warmth and humor as he asked me questions, though I don't really remember the questions or the answers.
It's a few weeks or months later, and I'm in my house, the house I grew up in just outside of Pittsburgh. There are snowflakes falling outside, and my mother and sisters are making cookies in the kitchen. For the first time, I am allowed to help make them, and it felt great. Everyone was so happy and filled with the Christmas spirit.
And on the radio, "Cherish" by The Association was playing.
Cherish is the word I use to describe / All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside
I love that song, and I have a confession to make: because it featured a chorus of voices singing together (and ringing bells), I actually believed that it was a Christmas carol! I was probably a teenager until I realized it wasn't.
Memory is, as I said, tricky. And can be both static and elastic. I've been looking at so many photographs lately. Photos and memories are all I have left of my grandfather, who died on the day after Christmas that year. Photos and memories are all that's left of my mother, who passed away three years ago.
And memories are all I have left of the house I grew up in, the one filled with people and memories. My father sold our house - the house he and my mother moved into back in 1965 - a few weeks ago.
It hurts, of course, that these these people I love are only memories, and that the place I always knew as home is out of reach forever.
I am living in the present and looking forward to the future - a future filled with a new home, new family and new memories. But my memories are valuable - imperfect, dusty and elastic, I am sure. But they're mine, and they're valuable. Cherished, even.
And I do
Cherish is the word