Reminders. They are the keepsakes of our memories. Parting favors from the past. Souvenirs of happy times; or unwanted tokens of painful experiences. Sometimes we seek out our reminders. And other times they find us, intruding on our lives in an unwelcome manner. Maybe they come in the form of a song... or a letter stored away in the back of a desk drawer... or a city that you visit... or a restaurant that was “your place.” Reminders. We can’t escape them. They are imbedded inside of us.
I was reminded of this very topic the other day during one of my book signings. It was a slow night. Actually, it was a dead night. I was sitting solo at my assigned table that was dressed with a stack of books and some pens. I felt myself wishing the hour would pass quickly as I went back and forth preoccupying myself with text messages, social media posts, and intermittent peeks at ESPN airing on the TV to the right of my vision. I couldn’t see myself, but I imagine that I looked somewhat pathetic sitting at my table - alone. Why is it that on the very day we are feeling like a failure, those unwanted reminders show up? And of course they appear as if to say, “I’m going to punch you in the gut right now. And it will hurt. And then I’m going to kick you. While you’re down.” Those reminders can be such little bastards. My reminder came in the form of a song. It was a happy song from a happy memory. But that happy memory eventually became a painful one. And this song was a reminder of the good and the bad that encompassed that memory. Since I was apparently enjoying my own company, the former reporter in me decided to do some “internet investigating” on the subject (a person) of that reminder. It appeared that person from my past was very happy and definitely not alone. Unlike me. Alone. At a table. Surrounded by my unsigned books. I know this is an elementary description, but simply put, I felt like a loser. And in that moment, the only way that I could fight my reminder was to pack up my things and rush out the door before the song ended.
I walked out on my reminder. But I couldn’t escape it. It stayed with me all through the night and into the days that followed. Tapping me on the shoulder. And reminding me of its presence.
I’m somewhat of a tortured soul when it comes to painful reminders. I often like to stare them down. I suppose that I think the pain of the reminder will back off if I stare long enough. And so as I continued to “investigate” my reminder, I came upon a friend’s reminder. She was a friend from my past with whom I reconnected. She posted a picture of herself with her husband. It was a post to acknowledge that it would have been their anniversary. I say “would have” because her husband died suddenly at a young age, leaving my friend and their young children alone. Without a partner. Without a father. The words in my friend’s post were somewhat neutral, but I could tell that her indifferent tone was masking the painful reminder that she lost the man she loved. It was a happy picture. A reminder of happy times. But also a reminder of a painful loss.
Reminders. They can wear two faces sometimes. Leaving us confused. Wondering whether or not we are grateful for the reminder, or want to wish away the pain that comes along with the reminder.
The holidays are always a time when reminders surround us. It’s a time a tradition. The music. The food. The people. They often come with reminders of the past that carry into the present. Maybe it’s a certain holiday album that always reminds you of the music played at your parent’s house. Or a reminder that for every holiday meal, your grandmother was in charge of baking the pies. In our family, my grandfather reads a prayer before every Thanksgiving meal while my grandmother stands beside him overcome with emotion upon hearing her husband’s words of gratitude. It happens like clockwork. Every year. It’s a tradition. This year, I expect we will carry out the same tradition. But it will be different. His wife, my grandmother, will not be present. Her declining health will force her to be in a nursing home this Thanksgiving. And I’m certain that as my grandfather reads his traditional Thanksgiving prayer, it will be a reminder to my family that our tradition changed because someone will be missing. But that prayer of Thanksgiving will still be read. Even though we will be minus one at the dinner table, we have much to be grateful for. And surely, my grandfather’s prayer will be a reminder of the importance of gratitude.
Reminders. They live with us. Maybe not every day. But they have a place in our lives. Reminders tell stories of our past. And those stories add texture, substance and depth to our lives. They may remind us that our lives aren’t always perfect. And that things don’t often go as planned. But reminders add to our history, which makes us interesting. And for that, we should be grateful to our reminders.