Tag Archives: memory

New Traditions

Traditions formed around our celebration of the holidays take on a significance that defines the way we celebrate. And come to represent the holidays in and of themselves. Turkey at Thanksgiving. Lights at Christmas. Without them, there is no holiday. And any change to this routine can be devastating. In our minds.

Lights are how I define Christmas. Religious aspects aside, the lights mean more to me than anything at Christmas. Candles in the church. Lights on the tree. And lights on the house.

This year was different for me. I had moved into a new house, and had to redefine how I would use lights to decorate for Christmas. The new house has a different shape than the old. And different landscaping. All of which impacts the places I can put lights, and how they look.

It’s a work in progress, and next year I will add more. But for this year I settled for one hundred feet of colored lights, the big ones from the old days, strung out along the gutter of my ranch house. And three giant light up snowflakes in the picture window of the living room. Framing that window is a candy cane rope light. And a giant blow up Santa Clause waving from the garage. Lit inside with a single bulb. Without a light, the wreath hangs from the door knocker on the front door.

Around the back of the house there are three lit up blow mold toy soldiers, a blow mold Santa, and a Moravian star. Complete with a flaming tail made of icicle lights.

Inside there are two trees. One lit in white with formal decorations, and a second, larger one, brightly colored with hundreds of little lights. That tree is covered with decorations I’ve collected over the past thirty years, all with a rich meaning and significance. And, there is a lit up blow mold Santa. Not bad for the first year here.

Out of curiosity I drove by the old house to see what the new owners had done. Would it be as spectacular as I had done it in the past? More formal? Bigger and better? I had no idea. And when I drove by the house in the darkness of the late evening, I was amazed. Not a single light to be seen. No wreath. Nothing.

Inside I could see a Christmas tree. Located in the living area where I had always placed mine. But gone were the green and red rope lights wrapped around the columns of the front porch. Gone the wreath on the front  door. No Moravian star hanging on the porch, waiting to greet visitors. No strings of colored lights adorning the shrubbery lining the front of the house. And no lights strung out along the roof line. Not white. Not colored.

It was very disappointing. And as I thought about how I had decorated that house for the past nineteen years, since its very first Christmas as a newly built home, I thought for a moment that the house was calling to me. I miss you! Come back and decorated me!

Does the house take on the personality of its residents? Does it remember? Or mourn? I don’t know. It looked happier lit up. I do know that.

New traditions for me at my new house. And new traditions for my old house with new owners. Change. I go with the flow.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Light Switches

In the beginning, there was darkness. And in the night sky flashed a light that came to earth as fire. Early humans captured the fire, conquered it, and put it to work for them. This was the dawn of civilization.

With curious experimentation and investigation, trial and error, and dumb luck, humans found that they could make many things burn. And they created torches, candles, oil lamps, kerosene lamps and gas lights to light the night.

With another flash in the sky came the discovery of electricity. and a revolution began. Eventually the incandescent light bulb was created. The electrification of the world began. There were wires hanging everywhere and often a single bare bulb dangled at the end to light a room. With time, the wires were put into the walls and ceilings of buildings, or covered with conduit. Multiple bulbs served a single room. New types, sizes and shapes of bulbs were developed and the light moved outdoors.

Humans had turned night to day.

For every light, there has to be a switch. That thing that you flip to send the electricity from its source to the bulb. The thing that makes the connection to turn the light on. My father is an electrical engineer and he can tell you all about how the technical details work, but from me all you get is flip the switch and it works.

When I look at the walls in my home I see single switches, dual switches, triple switches and even quad switches. In other places I have seen rows and rows of switches all working something. With all these switches, I sometimes have a hard time figuring our what each one operates.

I’ve only lived in my current home for ten months so I’m still sort of experimenting with what the switches work. There are switches indoors that turn on lights outdoors. There are switches upstairs that turn on lights downstairs, and vice versa. And some lights have a switch here, and another there.   Some of the switches turn on lights I can’t see from the switch so they appear to do nothing.

So the other day, out of curiosity, I turned on all the switches. I noted the indoor lights, and then walked around the outside of the house to see what was on. I went back inside and flipped a few switches on and off and walked around the outside again and I think I have it pretty well figured out now. Except that some lights never came on regardless of switch flipping. Those must be burned out.

During the nineteen years I lived in my last house, I never did figure out all the switches. There was a triple switch at the bottom of the staircase . The switch in the middle didn’t seem to do anything. It was either there for feng shui purposes, or it was intended for later use if there was some upgrade in the house. I just don’t know.

Short of labeling every switch in the house, I’m going to have to rely on my trusty memory to figure out what each switch does. If nothing else, I can just flip them on and off until I get the light I want. Or invent something new.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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The Phone Number

What?  Disconnected? That’s impossible.  But there she was again, that nice lady on the other end of the line telling me that she was sorry, but the number I had dialed was no longer in service.

Other than my social security number, which I will not share with you, that phone number was better known to me than any other number in the world.  Yes, I know Pi to umpteen decimals, and all the basic integers.  And my birthday.  But this phone number….

I still remember the phone number from the house I grew up in.  Thirteen years.  And nearly forty years ago.  At least the last four digits.  1883.  That’s pretty good considering I don’t know my wife’s office number.  Or either of my kid’s cell numbers.  Or even my own work number half the time.  But this number….

For thirty-eight years this number represented home.  Not where I lived, but where my family was.  This was my parent’s phone number.  For 38 years.  And today it was shut down.  Forever.

I say forever but the phone company will probably give it to someone else.  I might call it one day to see if the new owners are deserving.  Like my parents.  For thirty-eight years I knew I could call this number and a person who cared about me would answer.  Someone who gave me everything.  Who would do anything for me.  And had repeatedly done so much.  It just rolls off my tongue, straight from my memory.  Without a second thought.  But now I don’t need it anymore.

My parents moved today.  They didn’t take the number with them.  Take that you nasty telemarketers!  They were downsizing.  Starting anew.  So they decided a new phone number was in order as well.  I hope they can remember it. 

I’ve got the new number plugged into my iPhone.  One of my contacts.  That way I won’t be tempted to call the old number.  By force of habit.  But I’ll probably never remember the new number.  Not like the old one.

New life for them.  New chapter for me too.  There will be plenty of memories associated with the new number I’m sure.  But it won’t be that number….

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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