Monday, December 7

advent 2009

I am a Cancerian! It is said of my astrological sign that one of our major characteristics is the inability to throw things away. We Cancers are hoarders. Over the years I have tried very hard to overcome this trait, with some success, but not completely. True, some memorabilia is proudly displayed on my walls, shelves, and table tops. But many pieces of memorabilia are stuffed in various and sundry places throughout the house. There is one special drawer that seems to accumulate what may be the bulk of “things,” especially the small pieces, that represent events and happenings during my life.

The most pregnant example of my desire to keep things may well be my house shoes. I have six pair, including two inherited from my dad, one from a Mexican resort, one received as a Christmas gift, and one I actually purchased. But the one I wear most is a pair of leather heelless slip-ons bought in Jaipur, India, many, many years ago. This pair is so worn out that six of my ten toes stick out through breaks in the leather. But they are so familiar and comfortable that the thought of doing away with them almost scares me. I have resolved that should I seriously stub a toe due to the breaks in the leather, I will definitely consider chunking them ... perhaps. My suspicion is that I hold onto these house shoes because they remind me of an exciting time in my life that represented adventure and the excitement of exploring a new culture. But the fact is that this symbol is also a practical, useful memento that continues to serve a purpose.

But looking at other mementos, the same cannot be said for them. There is the small box of different kinds of salt obtained in an underground salt mine in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Why keep that? Or the gold High School Beta Club “rope” worn during graduation, or the U.S. Air Force Commissioning Set presented to me by the University of Georgia at graduation, irrespective of the fact that I then flunked my commissioning physical. Neither has a purpose or function; they cannot be worn, eaten, or otherwise utilized. Yet I hold onto them. Why?

For most of us, the upcoming Christmas season is marked by any number of symbols, some which we comprehend why we utilize and others that are just there, for reasons either lost to us or never fully understood. But deep down we instinctively know that without these symbols, the Christmas season would be lacking in some inexplicable way. So we continue to utilize them, year in and year out, occasionally augmenting them with new ones and, yes, occasionally, dropping an old one. As we age we may display them less and less, but their meaningfulness to our lives and our collective memories persevere.

– Milton Newton

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