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What’s In Your Closet?

16 Nov

They we were, in our darkened kitchen, just a few short years ago.  My wife, our daughter, and her visiting friend—surrounded by all sorts of “goodies.”  We were huddled around the kitchen table for an additional and unconventional kind of holiday goodie. 

But first a little background.  A few years back, our daughter was home from college for the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  It was such a great time.  The day was peaceful, the food delicious, and the fellowship fun.  Fun, that is, until someone suggested that I break out the old 16mm film projector.  I winced at the suggestion.  However, I am such a softie when it comes to those kids of ours—and my daughter is no exception.  So, when she began the “please dad,” routine, I gave in and headed for the closet under the stairs.  I hate the closet under the stairs.  That closet has a door for a reason.

When my kids were very young, I made up this story that a spanking machine was hidden in the deep, dark recesses of that closet.  Not sure why I said that, but it seemed to work as a deterrent for awhile.  They stayed out of the closet.  The door stayed closed and everyone was happy.  Happy, that is, until I acquiesced to the heart-tugs of the day in question.

There I stood, like a man about to head off to war—a real dilemma on my hands.  Finally, I decided to tackle the challenge.  As I opened the closet door, I was one sorry man.  How in the world could so much junk be piled in such a small closet?  I live with a group of wonderful people, but let me tell you something.  There is a philosophy that pervades my busy family. The philosophy is this:  “What we can’t see can’t hurt us.”   Sheeesh!  The converse is equally as true.  Things fell down onto my feet and I let out frustrated, “ouch!”  Snickers were heard from the kitchen. 

“Funny,” I yelled.  Snickers turned to cackles.  For a second, I thought I lived with a bun of hens.

Instead of going through the accumulated piles of junk and discarding what is NOT needed, my family loves to just transfer messes to other vacant spaces.  Believe me when I tell you this:  THE CLOSET INTO WHICH I AM STARING IS TOTALLY FULL!

There I was, dealing with someone else’s junk pile just to find the projector. 

“Happy Thanksgiving to you too!”

The deeper I dug into the middle of the pile of papers, furniture, blankets, etc., the more I became frustrated.  I was frustrated now for a little different reason.  I was realizing most of the junk I was tossing about was MINE–ALL MINE!  I could not believe I kept all that stuff.  I was surely glad no one was videotaping my search for the distant past.  But being the man on a mission, I kept my discoveries quiet.  A guy’s got a reputation to uphold, you know.  [Now, I am snickering]

Anyway, let me get to the point.  I did find the projector and the old reels of film in the same box.  I yanked the box from its mooring, which was between two chairs.  I snatched up the box and paraded back into the kitchen like some sort of hero. 

Soon, we would begin the trip down memory lane.  I thought to myself, “this is going to be fun.” 

There is something special about the clicking sounds that accompany the showing of 16mm films, as the projector labors to advance the film frame-by frame.  There is a certain synchronicity that is almost mesmerizing to the listener.  One good thing about silent 16mm films is that running verbal commentary does not at all harm the viewing.  Some people can be so rude to the elderly who just like to reminisce out loud. 

I guess the reasons I am sharing this story are highly personal and somewhat simplistic.  You see, as the projector clicked and clacked, I watched my own life roll before me.  As the images flashed on the screen in faded colors, I began to stare at my wife.  I then extended gazes to my daughter and my son.  Amidst the comments of how skinny and young we were, the baby baths and tricycle rides–and the laughter about our clothes and hair styles–there were so many nonverbal sensitive moments.  I felt a little like a god, watching his creation adore the very objects which I adored, and in which I played a role in making.

As the last film reel neared its end, I was struck anew with the reality that none of us is immutable–yet can love and be loved consistently and unconditionally.  Our lives are but whispers, non-ubiquitous and momentary, yet here we are–STILL!.  Our whispers are slowing and our ubiquity not as prominent.  The years do take their toll.

There is something about the past that provokes a sense of urgency.  For me, that night, the past cut through the present clutter of life and allowed me to resurrect reality in fresh ways.  Definitely, I am little heavier.  For certain I am a lot older, and a little grayer.  Despite these realities, I am a whole lot more appreciative.  I appreciate my wife and my children so much more.  I am struck with a line from Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Senator Jefferson Smith, speaking via his filibuster in the Senate, stated:  “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these senators didn’t start out life as boys.” 

Some people find skeletons in their closets.  My life is no exception.  It’s just that some of these skeletons are a little younger and a lot more nimble, so as to hide themselves in life’s clutter.  There was no spanking machine at the back of the closet.  There was only a box of memories that gently patted my heart. 

This Thanksgiving will be the first holiday without my father.  He passed away from nasty brain June 6, 2010.  I plan to wear my specially made cremation jewelry, so as to keep him with me as I carve the turkey.  It was my dad’s gentle hand of guidance that showed me how to carve the delicious bird.  I am sure when I get to those special parts of this year’s ancient film festival, where my dad appears, it will bring both old and new emotions to an emotional junction.  But it’s all good.  It’s all purposeful.  It’s all from God.

God’s gift to us is people.  God’s gift to other people are our memories of them—the likes of which can never be kept hidden in a closet. 

What’s in YOUR closet this holiday season?  Care to make some special memories during this year’s holidays?  It might very well be the last ones you will ever make.  Go ahead, I dare you.  Open the door . . .

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