Bay Reflection
The Boxed Ghosts of Holidays Past
by Joan Bennett Clancy

Halloween is over. Time to start the caroling. Time to trash the orange candy corn and mushed Reese patties. Get out the red and green sugars, the star cookie cutter and the Christmas decorations. With pounds of turkey trimmings now resting on hips, we can begin making Christmas fantasies.

In little communities like Fairhaven, 30 years ago '@home' meant 'fun made here,' not a web site. It meant the making of memories and memorabilia.

Home became a manufacturing plant. We created scents and post card scenes. We worked on projects that dreams are made of, imagining our recipients' 'oohs' and 'ahs.' We couldn't wait for Christmas morning, but we didn't want it to come before we boxed and wrapped all our gifts.

The house could hardly hold all the expectancy that would deliver a memorable holiday. There were school-made ornaments, smoked fish and kilbasa, trumpets and 'I hate green socks' boxes. Long after Midnight Mass, boxes were still accepting gifts and wrapping. Special boxes passed round the family, from mother to daughter or sister to brother and later a Christmas wedding.

After the high holidays, stacks of gift boxes stood next to towers of Christmas ornament boxes. Memories were resting. We could go into the attic in July and anticipate or remember the secrets of them all.

Memories make futures, and children grow into these futures. They carry their past with them and leave parents behind to recall alone the going into adulthood. They leave, but the boxes stay behind in ghost-like presence of presents and traditions. The boxes are filled with the life of the past: a picture ornament from first grade, an ornament from Nana - who is only a memory now. They hold the lights that always created a major blow-out or -up. They hold the box tags with misspelled luv but not misplaced love. It's all so neatly packaged in the attic.

Every year, the ghosts flow all over the house and make for recollections with tears and laughter. After the kids go, the ghosts come with the music of an echo. If only we could make the sad ghosts box up the emptiness in an unopenable part of our hearts. But we can't. The happy ghosts like to drag them along so we can appreciate the happy memories more.

The epiphany is that the boxes aren't filled with things but with parts of us. Each year we add another part, even though the addition may be that we are losing little pieces of what was. The ghosts are what life is all about: haunting memories that put tears and stars in our eyes. Happy and sad twine the past into the future.

So we move from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas into the New Year and its Epiphanies.


Every year or so, we share a reflection with public health nurse Joan Bennett Clancy, of Fairhaven.

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Volume VI Number 48
December 3-9, 1998
New Bay Times

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