I love this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It really suits my feelings at the end of a year. I miss those family members gone, and as I go through the rituals of Christmas and the new year, I think of them, little memories tickle in, mostly sweet, some regrets. And, I appreciate the sentiment of “anniversaries of the heart.” Here then, the poem. And, a ritual my mother and I shared for more years than I can remember.
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;—
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;—a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
My mother was a hard-working person, who tried to make everyone’s dreams come true at Christmas. She cooked enough on Christmas to practically keep all of us full until the New Year. An early riser, she would get up before everyone and savor those early morning moments with her first cup of coffee and the crossword puzzle from the morning paper. Other than that, she rarely took time off for herself, but the week between Christmas and New Years was hers. She’d set up the card table and begin a jigsaw puzzle. Anyone and everyone could take part. If someone dropped in, she would engage them in the puzzle. Time floats away as you concentrate on working a puzzle and she chose them to be challenging. Then on New Year’s day, the puzzle finished, we took down the tree and put the ornaments away. I kept that ritual going in my home after she died but then, somewhere, I stopped working puzzles. And this year, for the first time, I missed putting my ornaments away yesterday.
A couple of days after Christmas, I got into my stuffed full quilting closet and there, the “anniversaries of the heart”, lay hidden. Memories came pouring out. Lacey doilies she had crocheted. Patches she had made for a bedspread. Her handwriting on wisps of paper pinned to fabric describing its future use. Her button collection.
I kept scraps from clothing she wore or made for my daughters. The closet had so many unfinished dreams, I’ve yet to finish the job.
With most of the material and stuff I’d put into the closet gone, it is looking much neater on this side. My sewing machine is giving me trouble and out of the closet. I gotta find something better.
On this side of the closet, those nicely closed drawers were so stuffed full, the bottoms were warped and the drawers couldn’t close.
My office is practically unnavigable for the stuff I unloaded from that closet. Yes, it was full of unfinished projects, but marvelous memories it contained have inspired me anew to finish them. Thanks Mom. Thanks Henry.