Memories on the Mantle

There’s a thick wooden shelf over the fireplace in the living room covered with photographs of moments that I don’t remember. A few I wasn’t alive for, but some I’m in—smiling brightly, wild-haired and wild-eyed. It’s strange to think how many memories this house holds for me; the slumber parties and family meals, movie nights and homework sessions.

I don’t get to come here often anymore. It’s not far away, but sometimes even that 3 hour train ride can seem insurmountable. I have a life somewhere else now; not all I want yet,  but enough that I can’t just take off on a whim, even when I want nothing more than to eat my mother’s home-made Santa-Fe chicken and  watch West Wing on the couch with my dad.

These days my family moves in circles around each other. Our orbits intersect every few months. Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen my younger brother in 6 months. The four of us – 5 if you include the dog, and my brother and father certainly do -- haven’t all been together since before summer even started. I like when we all get to be in the same place, to share a few short days, a few short moments.
 Thanksgiving is tomorrow.   I’m home through the weekend, but I’m not sure when I’ll be here next. I’m working over Christmas, and the whole movies and Chinese food routine doesn’t need to be confined to December 25th. It’s strange to think of home as a place that I come to visit for a couple of days at a time, but I guess that’s what getting older means. Having new homes, new places I need to be.

Tomorrow I’ll sit around the table with my brother and parents, my grandmothers and cousins and uncles and aunts. My Nana will balance spoons on her nose, and the boys will sneak away to play video games. We will eat a lot (of course) and laugh even more, and my mom will tell stories about moments I was there for but much too young to remember.

One day these moments will be memories too. I’ll look back on my visits home when I was in my 20’s. Scared and unsure and figuring my life out. Taking comfort here, for a few days at a time.  . Days where I got to curl up under the blankets and listen to my family move around me, my laptop on my lap and my fingers on the keys.

I think – I hope -- I’ll look back on these days fondly. One day these new, present, memories will be on the mantle. My hair is longer now, but no less wild. I never learned how to properly disguise the manic spark behind my eyes.  The photographs I’ll look at in another decade might be one’s I’ve taken, but they might be ones I’m smiling in. 

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