I’m not one of those people able to recall every minute of my life. When I see characters on a TV witness stand asked where they were on a specific date two years past, I panic by proxy, thinking they’re going down for sure. Of course, TV being so very much like real life, they inevitably reel off where they were, who they were with, even what they ate, and go their merry way…way away from further legal trouble. I sit there trying to remember what I had for dinner two days ago, shake my head sadly, and amble toward the kitchen in search of chocolate, which I’m much more likely to
remember well into the next day.

It’s my understanding that different people remember things in different ways. I mostly remember events and moments, so that instead of a tightly woven
single life cloth, I am a walking patchwork memory quilt. To me it’s as if my life is rolled out behind me like a memory buffet, to be sampled and savored by category. Some of it is vague, while other parts are crystal clear.

Every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, one of those crystal clear moments defines this particular holiday for me. Devoid of umber toned turkeys, cranberries, and Pilgrims, this particular memory is simplicity itself, but carries a complexity that makes it unforgettable.

My childhood was enhanced by the presence of a favorite aunt. Her name might have been a southern cliche, if not for the fact that she was indeed a treasure. It’s said that her father took one look at his newborn daughter and declared that she was a little pearl. That became her name and she lived a life of love and laughter and an infectious sense of wonder and joy.

My childhood was spent often in the presence of the special woman who made me believe fairies lurked beneath wild violets, shared my love of Misty of Chincoteague, and was my earliest exposure to a person who made up stories and harbored a dream of being published. Once I grew up and moved away, it was a rare treat to spend time with her. Thanksgiving at home was looked forward to all year. My parents hosted various aunts and uncles, people visited, and Aunt Pearl was always there.

One year after the turkey had been consumed and the conversation
savored, it was time for Aunt Pearl to be taken home. It was my pleasure to walk her out to my car for the extra moments of conversation and companionship. We stepped out into the crisp fall air that so perfectly accompanied a dusty blue sky, its drapery of wispy white clouds like celebratory banners. I cajoled her into stopping for a final photograph, wanting to freeze the waning day in time. She stopped and smiled as only she could. The moment was captured. I drove her home and hugged her goodbye…until next time.

There were a few more years and then she was gone. It was as if the brightest candle on an antique Christmas tree went out too soon. She was an old lady, but it’s always too soon to lose the people you love most. I still have the picture I took that one random Thanksgiving, but I rarely look at it. Somehow, that became one of those special moments my
memory captures for me to cherish over a lifetime. I remember that moment as if it happened an hour ago. The image, the sound of her voice, the way it felt to snatch a rare chance for just the two of us to enjoy the minor adventure of a drive through the holiday twilight.

For all our technological marvels, there’s still no device that can capture everything in a given period of time the way the human brain can. What a machine we are! And yet we take for granted the depths of our truest of memories. The tactile sensation of the feel of her blue sweater as we hugged. The brush of gray hair against my face. The reverberating sound of a laugh like no other. The way it felt to know how very precious one Thanksgiving moment could be. My memory saved all that and more for me to replay at will, especially when I miss her on new holidays without her.

So this Thanksgiving I’m particularly thankful for that crystallized instance that comforts me and makes me smile. I don’t remember exactly what I ate that day. Instead, I remember how I loved and was loved.

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