When I was growing up holidays were an endless stream of relatives, food, music and laughter. There was rarely an elegant table setting and quiet conversation. That’s not how the Greeks in my life did things.
There were always more people than room at the table and pastisto and spanakopita as side dishes to the turkey in lieu of cornbread and string bean casseroles. There was no Instagram photo to remember to take so you could compare your holiday dinner to those of strangers and wonder why theirs looked better than yours. At best, glimpses of the day were captured on a Kodak camera that you hoped someone would remember to develop before summer.
Mostly there were moments.
If I close my eyes I can see them in rich detail. I can hear the Greek music being played on a stereo player, breathe in the smell of cherry pipe tobacco when people still allowed you to smoke in the house and my father trying to carve an enormous turkey while surrounded by my mother and aunts, all crowded into our tiny kitchen. The lack of room at the “big table” left me sitting at the kid’s table well into my thirties.
What I don’t remember is savoring those moments as they happened.
I don’t remember anyone suggesting I should nor it ever occurring to me how precious and fleeting those moments would one day seem. I had that feeling that one has when they are young enough not to know any better – that there was an endless supply of moments, so if you missed one it didn’t matter. There was always another to be had on its heels. And another. And another.
I know better now.
My mother sat at the head of our table this year and held the hands of her son and daughter as she told us how grateful she was to still be here at 96 and to have been granted such a long life. I did not reach for my iPhone to capture it on video. Maybe I should have but as a few tears trickled down my cheek, I was too present and too in the moment to think of anything but where I was.
The pace of our world has us skipping past our moments.
Halloween candy hits stores on Labor Day weekend and Starbucks plays Jingle Bell Rock the week before Thanksgiving. We have been ingrained to believe if it’s not posted on Social Media, it’s not real so it’s easy to lose sight of being fully in the moment. The ad-based revenue model that both traditional and digital media is based on encourages us to constantly think ahead of where we are today as business clamors for who will get the biggest share of our dollars.
The onus is on us.
Since we’re not going to get any help from them, the onus is on us to stay conscious to being present and in the moment and savoring the ones we know are extra special. If we feel the need to capture it for Instagram, so be it, but not at the expense of allowing ourselves to experience the magic of that moment in real time.
We wonder what will be leftover after our holiday dinners, what juicy morsels of food we can go foraging for the next day in the refrigerator, a slice of apple pie or a secret stash of stuffing. But it seems to me that the very best leftovers are found in the moments we experienced and the bonus is they have no expiration date.
Also published on Medium.