There is something about glitter on home made Christmas cards that makes me feel safe and warm. Trying to describe it to you now, it feels like this: I catch a half glimpse of a half-memory; the contents of small tubes of brightly coloured glitter – silver, red, green and gold – pouring out onto a blank piece of paper, to be made into a card, possibly to be given to my Mum and Dad.
I have also woven other elements into this vignette. A window, outside of which leaves of gold swirl in the mist. A warm radiator. An anticipated thought that I will be wearing a woollen scarf later when I go outside. There is also a larger sense of family somewhere. Belonging to people. Home. Whispered children’s breath misting up a window pane. Fingertips making steamy circles on the warmed up glass.
This particular memory comes back to me every year in early Autumn. Its arrival feels like welcoming an old friend, ‘Ah, there you are, come and have a seat at my table.’ I am aware it is nostalgia but it doesn’t really matter. It is a memory. Through memory and imagining, Autumn has become a falling cascade of glitter and leaves. Who wouldn’t want to remember that?
But It isn’t just the glitter and the leaves that make me feel this way. As I grow older, memories of warmth and safety become infused with ideas of love and morality, decency and goodness. All these truths inform my world, by wrapping themselves around it like a cloak made of velvet. At times when you are faced with uncertainty and unpredictability, these are the beacons that can guide you home to your soul.
So what exactly are these truths? For me, like those small tubes of glitter, they are often little things and in themselves, perhaps nothing much at all. A line from a book. A poem. A letter weathered from being unfolded and read many times over. Music. A kind gesture from someone that you return to again and again, possibly only realising its significance to you much later on. Kindness. Kindness. Kindness. These all contribute towards a much greater picture, a living memory that chimes by your side, as a kind of compass reminding you of who you are, or even a guide back towards the person who you want to be.
And perhaps after all – the lessons we should learn about memories and love are really quite simple after all. If we think of them as touchstones and totems by which we can measure our present and future selves. By being grateful for the things that have touched us and by what we choose to remember with love.