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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sadly Drawn Lines

As the year decelerates towards Christmas, I am dwelling on the magical quality of this time of year; mostly the hiding of secrets and the anticipation of giving presents, not to mention the obligatory defrosting of the freezer and the overwhelming urge to wash things I haven't washed since last Christmas.

And the memories which surface when I write the cards.

I always dig out my ancient Filofax with its soft, yellowing pages, where more names have been crossed out than remain. Most of my newer friends and acquaintances are ethereal, yet strangely brighter and more 'real' than people I once knew in the flesh. These people are fading.

They are ruled through with a stroke of the pen, or at most, a diagonal cross, so I can still see the essential details of a person who is now a stranger. I wonder if my own name - maiden or married - still features in crumbling address books, either crossed out, or obliterated forever with Tippex, or even furiously scribbled into oblivion.

Sadly, some of my people are behind the Biro bars because they have died. Some simply stopped sending me a card. Maybe they discarded card-sending in general, or perhaps they dislike/don't celebrate Christmas anymore. Or maybe they don't like me now. Perhaps they never did!

Over the years, the resurfacing of the Filofax and its dwindling supply of friends has made me feel a little sad, but now it brings a reflective mood, perhaps because I am older, more stoical and less in need of confirmation that I exist in the eyes of others. And perhaps because my life is populated largely with both ethereal and fictional people who keep me company day and night. I can have as many, both in terms of quantity and variety, as I like. And I can set them aside for a while without hurting their feelings.

And there it is - the magic of Christmas. It is about how you make people feel, showing them with gifts, cards, food, drink, or simply your beautiful presence, that you care - or that you don't. Because if you don't, there is magic there too.

The lack of a card might mean crossing out another name, but at least they still feature in the book, consigned to the past now, but solid evidence of the life you have led and those who have enriched it, whether the connection lasted for years or snapped after only a short time.

The loss or lack of a person can become tangible, another thread woven into the tapestry. You and the now-stranger once criss-crossed your lives, component parts of each other's story.

Onto more prosaic matters - the joy of being given a chain belt by an ex-neighbour, Christmas 1970, modelled here with vintage pyjamas and imbued with the power to turn a child into one of Pan's People. I wish I still owned it. I have, however, retained the same hair-style, albeit playing fast-and-loose with the word 'style'. The giver of the chain-belt has long since been crossed out and the memory of her has waned, but I shall never forget her.



And the magic is ever-present in the memory of my brother, his final address in my Filofax still bold behind the sadly drawn line, who would have celebrated his birthday on the twentieth of December. Here we are circa 1963, our personalities clearly drawn - he was older, cooler and busy working out new mischief for us. And I was...well, a bit of a twit. But a happy twit  with an imagination - if not much else - that always had a lot of jingle-bells attached and sought out the magic in everything at any time of year, and hopefully, always will.



Happy Christmas!

18 comments:

  1. A poignant post, Joanna. I too have an address book with some addresses added over old ones for those people that move a lot and the lines across others. I can't bring myself to draw a line through one friend's name even though she died five years ago. So sorry to hear about your brother. On a happier note, I had a chain belt too - long gone!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Lindsay. I can well understand how you can't bring yourself to draw a line through your friend's name. It has too much finality. Glad you had a chain belt too - I thought I was the bee's knees with mine! xxx

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    2. I meant to say, have a very happy Christmas as well, Lindsay, and thank you so much for all your support. xxx

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  2. I have an address book like that too, but I can never cross out the names. I started a new address book a few years ago, but I still have the old one somewhere and looking at my current one, I sometimes think it would be a good idea to start another new one.

    I used to long for a chain belt. I remember them hanging up in the shop and running my fingers through them. Every time I saved up enough to buy one, I found something else to spend my money on so I never did get one! xx

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    1. I was so desperate for a chain belt! I can still remember the tissue paper it was wrapped it and my family saying, 'What is it? What is it?'. When I realised what it was, I was ecstatic, wore it all day - running my fingers along the hanging end like you did in the shops - and went to bed still wearing it!

      Have a very happy Christmas, Teresa, and thank you so much for your lovely comment and all your support. xxx

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  3. Thanks for that beautiful post, Joanna - funnily enough I was just mentioning Christmas card lists the other day and I too have various names crossed out in my book. I'll probably replace it with a new one eventually but I like your idea about those people having been in our lives at one point. I love those photos and you still look so much like you did in the one with the chain belt (I had one of those too!). Have a wonderful, magical Christmas.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rosemary, for your lovely comment and for all your kindness and support this year. I hope you and your family have a very happy Christmas. xxx

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  4. This is the best (and most poignant) post I've read this Christmas. I use a very old address book and was thinking the same as you about the crossed out names. It made me feel sentimental about the past. Your oucture if the chain belt really took me back. I have a picture of me age 8 in my chain belt and catsuit (remember those!) My chain belt was also my best loved present that year along with my velvet choker :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Wendy. That's lovely to know. I really appreciate that.

      Oh, I really wanted a catsuit! I never did have one, but I would have loved it. I would have worn it all the time. And thank you for reminding me of the velvet chokers! A friend and I tried to make some and mine turned out very odd and lumpy, but I felt very grown-up in it! I remember us sticking plastic 'jewels' on them!

      Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas, Wendy, and thank you for all your kind support this year. xxx

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  5. Beautifully written Joanna. I can identify with he address book lines struck through. It's interesting, how that evokes such strong memories and thoughts. There's a song called 'Caledonia' with the poignant lines: 'Lost the friends that I needed losing; Found others on the way' and also 'Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time' because as you suggest sometimes people touch our lives and we think of them with love and gratitude even though we have lost touch; others have provided experiences for which we have learned and moved on. Meanwhile I am intrigued by your comment: The obligatory defrosting of the freezer. I never get that urge much myself ;O)Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year!

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Madeleine. I really love those lines from Caledonia, which sum up the positive aspects of friendship, no matter whether it has continued or not.
      It's odd how I feel this urge to defrost the freezer - it's the first Christmas task I do every year, probably out of fear that I won't fit in all the extra food and out of shame that the ice in there is about four inches thick, having not been defrosted since the previous Christmas! I hope your Christmas was wonderful and wish you good health, happiness and peace for the New Year. xxx

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  6. I love this post, Joanna, and your photos:) When I was packing up belongings during my move I started to read through some old journals, where I used to record quite detailed accounts of experiences I shared with friends and colleagues in my early 20s, and it made me a bit sad that I had lost touch with some of them, but also happy to remember the great times we'd shared and how they shaped aspects of my life. I used to not like 'letting go' of friendships but the older I get the more I realise that this is sometimes necessary in order to grow, and to let wonderful new friends into your life! Hope you have a lovely Christmas x

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    1. Thank you so much, Vikki. It's interesting - and helpful- that as we get older, we do learn to take the positive aspects of friendship with us as we move on, regardless of whether those people are still actively in our lives. It's so good to cherish the memories, especially if you have kept a journal - how lovely to read through those again - and also good to reflect on how each person has enhanced our lives, even if only fleetingly.

      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and wish you a productive, happy, healthy New Year. And a huge thank-you for all your greatly appreciated support this year. xxx

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  7. I loved my 70s gold chain belt. It had S shaped links and a spiral bauble thing at one end. I remember the velvet chokers too. Aah, simple things, but they made us very happy!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, and lots of success in 2016.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne. Yes, the simple things bring the most fun and the best memories. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year. x

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  8. Fab post, really made me think. I guess we can all identify with the crossed out names in our address books. Very poignant.
    Wishing you a healthy and happy new year.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Maria. When I looked at those sadly drawn lines, they did seem to connect with the lines other people might draw and it made me think of the losses we all suffer, but how those losses can become something positive within our memories.
      I hope you had a very happy Christmas and wish you a wonderful New Year. xx

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