Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Thankful for the memories
November 30, 2010
It is in the air, on your coffee cup and on the radio. The holidays have arrived and I'm feeling less festive than usual.
I am a very festive person and so was my mother. I learned it from her. She taught me how to set the dining room table, to never go to a party empty-handed, the flavors of the holidays and that the most important people in the world is your family.
For a festive person, it is hard for me to smile with Thanksgiving complete and Christmas on the way because every bite of turkey, every hung Christmas light and every holiday song is hard to bear without her.
I have been looking forward to and dreading the holidays at the same time. I have heard it a thousand times, that the holidays are the hardest time after losing someone. They were right.
Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our traditional way, yet without my mom, everything felt foreign. I compare the feeling to being abroad for Thanksgiving.
Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving away from my family and instead I spent the holiday in Paris.
The sparkling lights of the Eiffel tower, the romantic aura of the air and the most beautiful place in world would never be as beautiful as Thanksgiving dinner with my family. And, I remember thinking I never wanted to miss a holiday with my family again.
These are the moments when I wish there was a manual to life. When there is no one to ask, you ask the manual. I envision it being similar to an encyclopedia, where you can flip alphabetically to any category and find the answer.
Shortly thereafter, you close the book, make your decision and move on.
From relationships to loss, from speeding tickets to mistakes, in this book lies the best answers to simple and complex questions.
But then again, I would probably just prefer to write my own manual. Over the past three years this column has been my encyclopedia to life, where I have recorded my lessons and shared my stories and my philosophies.
Yet, sometimes I forget to flip back through my own pages, through my own encyclopedia and learn from my own lessons.
I always seem to rise to the occasion when it comes to public speaking.
I inherited that trait from my mom. At the majority of our family functions, I always say something to start the party or dinner on the right foot and mindset.
Feeling lost without my mother in the corner of the room this year, I asked everyone to give thanks to our memories. In the Greek culture, we say "May their memory be eternal."
In other words, may we continue to have the memories of our loved ones instilled within us every day.
Looking back on my personal encyclopedia, here are just some of the memories that I am thankful for.
"By listening to these signs, I canceled all the San Diego festivities out of instinct and came home for the summer to reconnect and ground myself in the stories that have created who I am." (When I returned home for the summer to take care of my mom.)
"This experience gave my life that glow and sparkle for which one searches all her life. I had never in my life been so lost, yet so found; so calm in the present, yet so antsy to explore the future." (On my decision to study abroad.)
"So, seize the moment and appreciate it because you never know when you will be cut off." (Reflecting on the last time my mom visited San Diego.)
When something tragic in our lives happens, we tend to push the memory away. This year, I introduced our memories back into the present.