Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 7333
Age Group: Adult
Posted: November 16th. 2003
Thanks for the Memories
"And memories, he knew, were not glass treasures to be kept locked within a box. They were bright ribbons to be hung in the wind." *
Around here, the time between Samhain and Yule goes by many names. I commonly refer it to as 'The Purging of the Closets'. Fritz tends to think of it more as 'The Season of Many Trash Bags.' And, of course, there is that Thanksgiving thing.
I must admit that I have been conflicted over the celebration of Thanksgiving ever since I found out that those First Pilgrims were simply fattening up their Native brethren for the future kill. Thinking of it as merely 'Turkey Day' -- or during my vegetarian years as 'Tofu With Wheat Germ Giblets Day' -- didn't make it any easier because while I generally have no problem with giving thanks, I really hate being pressured into doing so on an empty stomach. And then there is the timing factor. Make your prayer presentation too short and everyone at the table knows that you are thinking about getting it over with just so that you can chow down. Make it too long and you know that everyone else at the table is thinking why don't you just get it over with so that we can all chow down...And those Pilgrims had no monopoly on backstabbing as anyone who has ever attended a family Thanksgiving complete with rivaling sister-in-laws can tell you.
Pagans often experience some qualms over the obligatory family holiday get-togethers. Sometimes, he or she is the only Pagan in the family and often the family doesn't even know it yet. A few hearty yelps of "Hail Dionysus" after three glasses of spiked eggnog usually clears up that little dilemma, but you'll still have to deal with them again at Christmas or Hanukah. Let's face it; these 'family holidays' rarely turn out to be the stuff that warm and fuzzy memories are made of. But they can be...
Since Samhain is the time when many Pagans remember the gifts and loved ones of the past and Yule is the time when we give our gifts to our loved ones of the present, it seems rather fortuitous that the Thanksgiving period falls almost exactly halfway between the two. It is a very opportune time to make and strengthen connections between past and present. And it is also a time wherein we can pass along to a future generation some of things that we ourselves have come to value.
I am sure that I am not the only Pagan who feels the seasonal tug to clean out the nest. And as I go through the closets and drawers, I come across things that belonged to my parents or grandparents, things that friends gifted to me and things that have simply found their way into my life somewhere along my travels. As my hands encounter these things, memories are triggered and the cleaning out that should take me just a few hours to complete in fact usually takes me days as I linger on thoughts and reveries. Some times I laugh, sometimes I cry and sometimes I think, "What the heck is this thing for anyway?"
And this year, I found myself thinking a lot about past generations and the legacies that they left us.
From my great-grandparents' generation, I have the small silver ashtray with the little bird sitting on a wishbone. My dad kept it because it reminded him of the smell of his father's pipe on a cold winter's day. I have kept it because it reminds me of my father connecting me with his father.
His mother, my grandmother, always wore Chantilly perfume and I have a small bottle of that in my drawer. I take it out once in a while -- as I do her little seed pearl necklace -- and let the scent and the feel of the cool beads in my hands carry me back to my childhood days. I remember my grandmother's strong hands, gnarled and red, from wringing out clothes in same way that her parents did in the Hebrides and from the paring of countless crabapples for the Thanksgiving Day pies. It was a generation of starched collars, pride in tradition and based upon self-reliance.
From my parents' generation, I learned the value of work. We were poor -- at times, eating the friendly neighborhood squirrels kind of poor -- but it was never from the lack of effort. Taking the hardest, most menial jobs when necessary, my dad went to work every day of his life up to four months before his passing. Sick, hurt on the job, tired, he went to work. And while I do recall sometimes hearing my parents discussing finances in hushed voices after I had gone to bed, I never remember ever feeling poor at all. Theirs was a generation of changing industries, saving up for luxury items and post-war optimism.
And so we come to my generation -- our generation -- and I find it difficult to think of what our legacy might possibly be. Certainly, the rise of electronic communication, but that is not really a human value. I wonder how our children and grandchildren will remember us, what they might pull from a closet or out of a drawer that will make them laugh or make them cry or even make they think, "What the heck did they use this for anyway?" But I suppose that is only natural. Perspective usually requires some time and distance.
And maybe that is indeed our legacy after all. Perhaps our only "claim to fame" is to actually be the generation that makes the connection between past and future ones. Certainly, as Pagans, we are prime candidates for that role. And if this is so, then this time of in-between, this Thanksgiving season, is a good time to begin to make it a reality. And we can begin with our own friends and family.
This Yule, why not give your children a gift from their grandparents or great-grandparents? If you have a family heirloom and the kids are of an appropriate age, wrap it up and put a tag on it that says, "From Great-Grandpa". As they open it, tell them the story. But make it clear that this is not something that you are giving them; it is something that their great-grandparents gave to them. That is important. I am not sure why, but I feel as though it is.
If you don't have any family heirlooms, try to find a little something that really reflects either your parents' or grandparents' era (or as many eras as you wish to include). Tell the recipient why you choose this trinket and what you value about the generation that it is associated with. Pagans can gift other Pagans with vintage magickal items or cultural mementos. The physical item is not as important as the connection that is being made between the past and the present. For memories are made from moments of experience. A dusty old little silver ashtray is just a dusty old silver ashtray without the story, without the heart, without the connection.
I sometimes wish that I still had Grams' old apple peeler or my Dad's favorite sweater (the blue one that I gave him for Yule one year and that he wore until it was threadbare and the front zipper no longer went up). But then I close my eyes and remember the smell of cinnamon and allspice filling the kitchen and know that what I do have -- that precious memory -- is what really matters.
Some gifts can bridge the gaps between past and present and future. So then, let us be the generation who knows how to give such gifts. For in doing so, we too are often unexpectedly blessed.
As I sat in the waiting room of the hospital after the doctor informed us that Dad had just died, I looked up and said my good-bye right there. I never viewed the body. I didn't need to. Because I saw him at that moment. He was walking down the Road. He turned back for just a moment. Smiled. Waved. And gave me one final gift.
He was wearing his favorite blue sweater...
And it zipped up just fine.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, November 17th., 2003
* Terry Brooks; The Talismans of Shannara
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