Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Present

Well, here we are right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And, in many ways, it is. And, in many ways, it isn’t. The holidays seem to bring our emotions to a head; we feel things more intensely, everything is more pronounced. Add to that the fact that we’re looking at a new year right around the corner, traditionally a time to make New Year’s resolutions, to set goals for the coming year and to re-evaluate our lives. We can spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or worried about the future. So much emotion and introspection!
I was feeling nostalgic the other day so I got the box labeled “Keepsakes” down from my closet shelf. I had mixed emotions as I sorted through the various items because they each evoked a memory. Among other things, there were special birthday and Christmas cards from years gone by, drawings made by my nieces and nephews when they were little (they’re grown now) and ticket stubs from events I’d attended. Although the items represented happy times in my life, I was painfully aware that those times were in the past. Then I saw it: a copy of a short story from a writing class that I took sometime around 1980. It was exactly what I needed to read.
The title of the story is “Later.” It was written by Michael Foster from the omniscient point of view as a flashback and was first published in 1938. I saved the story all these years for a reason: in 1,000 words the author told such a powerful story and conveyed so much emotion that it made a lasting impression on me.
The main character, John Carmody, feels he is too busy to read a story to his little girl, and bitterly regrets his actions after her death. The story begins “It’s queer, the things you remember. When life has crumbled suddenly and left you standing there, alone. It’s not the big important things that you remember when you come to that; not the plans of years, not the love nor the hopes you worked so hard for. It’s the little things that you remember then; the little things you hadn’t noticed at the time. The way a hand touched yours, and you too busy to notice; the hopeful little inflection of a voice you didn’t really bother to listen to . . .”
The moral of the story: appreciate each day and each person in your life. Each day is a gift; that’s why it’s called “The Present.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!