The fragrance of plum cake and chocolate chip cookies wafting through open cafés remind you of you and your siblings taking turns to look through the window in your mom’s oven and asking “is it done yet?”. Holiday melodies that gets you singing along wherever you go remind you of carol services and school concerts. Shop windows and hotel lobbies dressed up in their fineries while the faint whiff of pine needles that linger on your clothes tugging at your heart strings. Year end sale, prices slashed, discounts galore and buy one get one free! Bargains everywhere. A wistful smile escapes your lips. You are transported to a date and time when you were just 3 feet tall hanging on to your mom’s fingers gazing in awe at all the goodies that seems so out of reach to your tiny fingers. You pass by a coffee shop and the aroma of coffee reminds you of cold rainy evenings when you are served a cup of warm milk with cocoa added as a treat while adults sip coffee and talk about politics and the latest scandals while a plate of crêpes stuffed with rich dark pani pol seem to magically disappear. You look out of the car and see the pavement vendor setting up his fireworks display. It jogs a memory in you that has been safely locked up in the depths of your very heart. You remember watching fireworks light up the infinite night sky sitting on your dad’s steady shoulders feeling comfortable and safe. The passerby hurrying home reminds you of the steady stream of neighbors and relatives dropping in for a chat. A stray crisp cold breeze jolts you from your reverie, signaling to your senses that December is here. Holidays are upon us and nostalgia is working overtime. Nostalgia: a sentimental yearning to return to a past with happy associations. To a time of reckless abandon. Oh to be a child again. How fun, how adventurous, how carefree!
I’ve been having these strange epiphanies the whole morning. Little pieces from a big crossword puzzle seem to dangle in front of me and disappear as if an invisible someone is trying to show me the way to a place that I must visit. Lunch is not ready yet, laundry is piling up, I was tired of yelling and threatening the kids to put things back, I can’t seem to remember was it yesterday that I gave a thorough clean up to the house or the day before? It doesn’t matter. It looks like a hurricane blew through. I can’t seem to concentrate. My thoughts are scattered all over. I give up! I need to make sense of this madness in my head, so I sit down to write. I pause over my keyboard for the umpteenth time and look over at my kids laughing at a joke huddled in their pillow fort. Then each of them continues telling different versions of the same joke. And they all laugh as if it’s the first time they are hearing it. It’s an uproar within the walls of their little castle every single time. I marvel at their lightheartedness. I envy their age. How I wish I could go back in time.
I was reminded of a quote by Zeena Schreck that I stumbled across recently that seems to have wedged itself somewhere in my consciousness “Nostalgia is an illness for those who haven't realized that today is tomorrow's nostalgia.” And my brain starts lighting up like a casino sign in Las Vegas. Staring at my kids I connect the dots. So this was what my epiphanies were all about. The flashes from my childhood were leading me here. Today, this very moment is what my children will look back as adults and think of during holidays. This moment now is their nostalgia. We are living their nostalgia. It was such an eye opener. A paradigm shift to my mundane thought process.
The clouds in my mind cleared and sunshine was streaming through. My kids are laughing. They are happy. I was pleased with the quality of the nostalgia they were producing. My happiness was short lived. But where am I? how will I make an appearance in the movie scheduled to be playing in their memory on a holiday in future? who am I in their memories of childhood? Stressed mom. Angry mom. Cranky mom. Over worked mom. Tired mom. Invisible mom. I didn’t want any of those adjectives. I want to be the fun mom. The happy mom. The magazine cover mom beaming at her kids with bright shiny teeth. The mom who has time for her kids. The Martha Stewart mom. But, here I am. The realistic mom. There are chores to do, errands to run, meals to prepare and kids to discipline. Sigh. Motherhood is such a tightrope walk.
But giving up is not something that comes to me easily. I am a bender of rules. Breaker of stereotypes. The champion of the multi taskers. With all my super powers put to good use, I device a plan. I want to be present in the colorful memories of my children. I want them to know me and I want to know them. I mean really know them. I save my work and open up the calendar and get to work. Pretty soon I’ve marked up the days that we can all, including the father take time off. I’ve made a list of places and people we can visit and enjoy activities together as a family. I carry the laptop over to the pillow fort and ask to be let in. The little faces were curious. I discuss my plans for the holidays with them and they add more. Bake cakes and cookies together, paint and make crafts, play board games, watch movies till late at night, make handmade cards and pay a visit to the post office to post them to the cousins, aunts and uncles scattered across the globe, have a karaoke night, the list was endless. We strike a deal. They promise to help me with my chores and help each other as much as possible. They were so positive and enthusiastic, it was contagious. I felt a deep sense of guilt. But I say to myself, it’s never too late to start making changes. I am glad I took the first step.
I feel pretty positive, but as I mentioned before, I am a realist. So I know there will be fights, arguments and an unlimited supply of tears, a messy kitchen and a messier home. Aching arms, feet, backs and heads. But the good news is that nostalgia is selective. It conveniently erases the bad parts and takes forward only the good in to the future. I am glad at least nostalgia is on our side. So don’t be afraid. Just take it easy and try your best. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Start walking the tight rope. Nostalgia is there on the other side, extending her arms waiting to grab you and pull you through to the future with a smile on her face.
Good luck and Godspeed. Happy Holidays lovelies!