Happy holiday memories are what we all strive to achieve. Thinking back on my holidays, I wonder if that’s a good or necessary goal.
My only vivid memory of Thanksgiving, for example, involves what seemed like a 50-person gathering every year, without fail, at Aunt Hill’s and Uncle Walt’s house for a gigantic family feast.
My memory doesn’t revolve around food or laughter or back-slapping, although there was plenty of that. Instead, I remember our self-officiated football game. Rain or snow (and there often was plenty of the latter), my cousins assembled on the L-shaped front lawn, which doubled as our L-shaped football field, chose sides and began playing.
I don’t remember the scores. I don’t remember any spectacular catches or tackles or injuries. I don’t remember anything about those games except that we played them at that big family gathering. Every year. Without fail.
Because virtually all of our extended family lived within 50 miles of each other, the only traveling my family did during the Thanksgiving and holiday school break was the occasional day trip. That left a lot of downtime with not a lot to do.
I was too young to drive and not quite lazy enough to watch TV all day. So every vacation weekday, I hopped on a snowmobile and headed to the frozen-over lake a couple of miles away.
And that would be my day: Arrive at the fish house, fire up the propane-fueled furnace and drop a minnow on a hook into the freezing water.
And then literally from dawn to dusk, I sat on a chair in the dark and watched the bobber. My only companion was a transistor radio that, if pointed just right, picked up the local radio station, which provided a steady diet of Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton and, at what seemed like 3 p.m. every day, “Jingle Bells” by some barking dogs.
There were other regular radio shows, too. There was the noon farm report, complete with prices for sow bellies and winter wheat. There was the daily turkey shoot, where a listener told the DJ when to fire an imaginary shotgun round toward an imaginary turkey, and if the turkey gobbled before it fell, you won! And there were constant holiday wishes from local jewelers, cleaners, auto repair shops and grocers.
Maybe I caught a couple of fish each day. Maybe I didn’t. I had no cell phone, since that technology didn’t exist. No texting, either. So I just sat there and fished and thought and fished and thought and fished and thought some more.
And every year at the holiday break, I couldn’t wait to do it all over again. Every year. Without fail.
The holidays came and went each year, and no big decisions were made. No great friendships were formed. No incredible personal insight was gained.
But there’s comfort in that downtime and those memories, those little things that happened every year that I could depend on and look forward to and carry with me.
There is something to be said, I guess, for simple, inconsequential memories.