Mementos and Memories
I have these two little gifts from friends who passed well before their time.
My friend Marion Ahrens, who passed on March 4, 2016, had sent me a package of David’s Tea, “organic the skinny: A Chinese Secret” tea. This tea is made with Oolong tea, pu’erh tea, ginger, orange peel, and eleuthero root. She sent it to me in the board courier because once again, I had laryngitis.
We had been working on planning the Arts Camp for our board — she was going to be director again, it was her second year in that role but had been at the camp for many years as a teacher. When I had approached her to find out if she might consider the director role I had no idea of her history in that place. This year she was going to be co-directing with a long time friend and another Arts Camp aficionado, Monica Wand who had been at camp, I believe, longer than anyone in it’s history. It was a dream come true for both of them to finally hold the role of co-director, together. Two months before the camp began, when I still had my laryngitis which would eventually turn into pneumonia, Marion left us — she was only forty four. I never drank the tea.
The second gift is a bag of spices, called Za’atar. My friend, Tanya Khan gave it to me. Tanya passed away on August 6, 2013 from complications with a brain aneurysm. We had become fast friends through our equity work with the board. We would laugh at the silliest things together. At the time, I was just learning how to cook and she was a brilliant chef. She was always giving me tips on how to use spices to give flavour in a healthy way. She had brought in this bread that I am sure has a different name but looked like focaccia topped with this spice that was so delicious. She told me she would bring me some.
I am not sure what happened but I missed a meeting and she emailed me to tell me I couldn’t miss the next one because she was carrying around this spice everywhere and if anyone went into her bag, they would think it was a bag of weed! It made me laugh.
This bag was full and now there are only a few tablespoons left. Her note sits inside the second ziplock next to the one she gave me five years ago. It is hard to believe it has been that long. I can still hear her laughter. I remember her smile.
I started to think about how we hold onto the most random things and why? When I told my father what I was writing about he says that he doesn’t hold onto objects — only people, in fact, he said, only my mother. He suggests to me that it is just women and girls who do this but I don’t think so. I know my husband held onto a hideous green velvet chair for the first 15 years of our marriage because it reminded him of the times when his mother would lay out his clothes on the chair next to the other green chair where his brother’s clothes lay, waiting for both of the boys to get dressed in the morning. I know that my younger brother wants an umbrella stand that my grandmother made out of broken china long before this was a thing in trendy giftware shoppes. I know my best friend made his grandmother’s mink coat into a mink cushion that he has on his sofa in his living room. Many of us do this — have these odd reminders of those we have loved.
There is a funny story that my Auntie Wendy had a honey cake from my grandmother in her freezer and after my grandmother passed away, my Auntie Wendy wouldn’t eat it. She kept it there until one day, one of her daughters opened up the freezer and saw Auntie Roey’s honey cake and had a piece. My aunt also still has the offspring of my grandmother’s African violet plant which she aptly named the Oracle of the Valley because when bad things would happen the plant would look as if it was dying and when things were good, it would be full bloom. My grandmother passed 30 years ago and yet, the African violet still lives.
So why do we do this? I think that the more significant the relationship, the more meaning we ascribe to these objects. In the case of Marion and Tanya, these women who I adored and yet, in the grand scheme of the relationships in my life, I only knew for a brief moment in time, these little reminders, the tea and the spices make me pause. I stop in that moment when I see it and I remember them. I remember both of them for their laughter, their love of children, their passion and talent. I remember how we sat together and did great things to make the world a little bit better. I feel sad for having had such a brief friendship with both but so much better for having known them.
We never know when the last time will be, when the last memento will be given, when the last memory will be made. Treasure it while you can.