Christmas Day is full of memories and memoirs lost and found. It’s a perfect time for nano memoirs of every kind. Whatever may occur to you, write it down, make a few notes, and have a little think about Christmases past.
I have a friend who can recall her history word for word, scene by scene, and keep her audiences entertained for hours with stories. Not everyone is so blessed, or cursed, depending on how you prefer to see it.
Sometimes it’s a good thing, or a neutral thing, or it means exactly nothing to have no memory whatsoever of particular symbolic days like Christmas. For instance, I have very sketchy memories of Christmas as a teenager, and none at all of Christmas as a child. I should have made some notes in that five-year lockable diary I never used because I was too busy reading Donald Duck comics and blowing up soldiers and (old, not the new) Matchbox cars under the house with my brother.
So, in honour of this Christmas Day, may I invite you to write a couple of nano memoirs of your day as gifts to yourself. I guarantee they’ll suggest so much more to you.
For example, a couple of mine go something like this:
Trifle: The trifle only happens on Christmas Day, and I can’t remember when it began, sometime within the last decade and a half. Trifle has nothing to do with my mother – she wasn’t big on desserts, although her sister, my Aunty Ag made a mean pavlova. It has to do with a woman, Mrs Paterson, who was a friend of our extended family. She was famous for her trifles, and she always came to visit not on Christmas but on New Year’s Day.
Her trifles were legendary and, although I ate them every year for years on end, I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in them because Mrs Paterson had a few secrets to preserve relating to her trifle. Secrets are how people retain a little power, and how they remain unique and valued by their tribe, how they’re invited back, year upon year. Which reminds me of Uncle Arnie’s ham glaze and The Year of the Cockroach, but that’s a nano for another time.
Oh, the trifle recipe, or receipt, as Jennifer Paterson (no relation to my Mrs Paterson) would say: layer a bowl (I always use Mum’s crystal salad bowl) with pieces of jam roll or other sponge and splash some cream sherry around (preferably on the jam roll). Add a layer of Aeroplane Port Wine jelly and peach slices (in natural juice, not that sugary syrup) and pour custard over the top. Start again with a layer of jam roll and a splash of sherry, then more peaches and jelly and custard. Refrigerate.
When serving, scoop into individual bowls (if you can resist the temptation to eat the whole thing yourself before the guests arrive) and squirt some whipped cream on top (from one of those spray can varieties, already ready to go and slam your left ventricle firmly shut). Enjoy.
Beijing: A long time ago, longer than I care to remember, and certainly before 700,000 cars were revving onto the streets of that great city every year, I went for a holiday to Beijing with a couple of friends. The only thing I want to note about that trip in this nano memoir is that on Christmas Day we went out as usual – we went out every day on a tour or a trip or shopping or eating – and completely forgot what day it was until later in the evening when we arrived back at our hotel.
We went straight to the bar for a beer – Beijing beer in those days was delicious, not sure what it’s like now – and there in the corner was a Christmas tree, erected especially for the Western tourists because in China, not a Christian country, of course, Christmas Day was just another work day.
I don’t remember where we went that day, but I remember that we forgot it was Christmas. Without the benefit of cultural and social reminders, we lost the day. It fell clean out of our heads, all three of us, and it was quite liberating. The burdens of significance and ritual were gone, just for once.
As you can see, nano memoirs can suggest everything. You can decide where to take them, and how to shape them. They’ll lead to other nanos without a doubt.
In the meantime, as a friend said to me the other day – and I didn’t forget (forgive the phonetic spelling):
Mala kaleeki maka, or in the old money: Merry Christmas to you.