I had begun a separate post regarding gift wrap, then this one insisted on being finished and shared. Every year I listen as friends, family and even acquaintances approach Thanksgiving with an almost tentative excitement, as the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season kicks into high gear. Most of us immediately think "But of course, it is overcommercialized and the stress is over the top," but this is not the real reason for the holiday angst. As I am certain anyone reading this post can attest, the real reason for the slight sinking feeling and the momentary angst is the realization that all of the lovely memories of Christmas past include the pang of grief and emptiness that comes with knowing who will not be there for the festivities. I have lost count over the years of the times I have been told "I hate the holidays. It just depresses me because I miss them so much." Well, I am a firm believer that no one truly "hates" the holidays, they simply feel more keenly the pain of having lost someone who is usually the foundation of their Christmas and other Holiday traditions, and whose face is indelibly etched in all the best memories.
It is my strong opinion that they would never want any of us to suffer through the holidays simply because they have passed on. They did not impart their traditions and their love of the season to us simply to have us mourn and grow bitter against a time of close family time, a reunion of friends, and a chance to see the warmest glow during the darkest season of the year. So, much like the homage we discussed for Hallowe'en, it is important to bring them to attend the Holidays with us; to honour them as the founders of tradition, the subjects of the best (and often most embarassing) stories, and the gift-givers who first introduced us to the magic of the season.
The best part is that it takes very little crafting skill, a good thing for me, and is completely personal. For anyone who was around for the Victorianesque Hallowe'en posts, this may sound a bit familiar. We are going to set aside a spot in our haunted Victorianesque Christmassy home to welcome back and pay tribute to those loved ones who set the stage. This time, however, we are not creating an altar with candles and momentos.
Think about what you and your loved ones do each year when you get together at the holidays. At least once in every gathering, a conversation begins with "Remember that time...?" That is what will make this so special. Only you can tell those stories. They cannot be extracted by some Hallmark card writer or even the handiest psychic. And this is how you can do it.
The Reminiscing Wall is a wall in the home, hung with a banner or a collection of photos of those who have passed, each accompanied by a single journal entry, handwritten by you, with a personal story, a memory that is often shared with the rest of the crowd at family gatherings. This takes a little time to do, but there is a reason for that. In the time it takes to handwrite the story, the writer is able to savour the memory and relive its warmth and good feeling. Now, as this is a Victorianesque undertaking (after all, who were better storytellers than the Victorians?), take your time going through old family photos. Set aside those that evoke your favourite tales. Now pay a visit to your favourite craft or stationery store and look for a nice aged-looking type of paper on which to write your stories. Each photo will get its own sheet of paper, and my recommendation, if you are not a quill or fountain pen fanatic like myself, is to find a nice gel pen or Sharpie marker with which to write your stories. Ball point just never does look right.
Use half the sheet to write your stories, saving the other half to affix your photo either with sticky tack (a reusable clay-like adhesive) or photo corners like those used in old photo albums. As I always say: Be creative. This is yours and should reflect how you wish to present your memories. Format the photo and story as you wish: Photo on top-story on bottom, vice versa, write the story around the photo, etc. And now for presentation. Once you have determined which wall you wish to use, you can hang your pages much like a photo wall, or using ornate cording, fastening each page at various angles, then tack each end of the cord to the wall.
The beauty of this project is that it is more than a conversation starter once company arrives. You can scan each page ahead of time and create scrapbooks as gifts. You can also involve members of your family to submit their favourite stories ahead of time, then write out the stories, affix photos and surprise them with their own contributions as part of the larger family reminiscences.
My apologies for not having a photo yet to share of mine, as it has turned into a larger project than expected (I am horribly verbose, remember?), and due to certain recent events, has new photos to add to the collection. It is a mixed blessing, perhaps; more stories, more smiles, bringing family closer.
Please always keep in mind: The Holidays, no matter which celebration is yours, which belief system or set of traditions you pass on to your family, we all have fond memories and they are still with us. That pain of grieving is simply an overabundance of embraces and kisses with nowhere to go. Now they can come out in the creation of something exclusive to you and yours, your way. For me, it is a legacy for my kinderspawn and a hug across miles to the others of my generation still here, carrying on the memories and stories of those who came before. Have Joy in your heart, after all, you were given the gift of wonderful, silly, shocking, and sometimes embarassing memories. Allow them to make you laugh and smile again. What better way to honour their authors.
Until the next, and from this black, but sentimental heart,