Oh, this takes me back, my mother said, as we settled in for the weekly rehearsal of a local amateur swing band. Each Sunday night, the band rehearses at the assisted living home where my mother lives. Its a sweet deal. They get a place to practice, and the residents get a treat every Sunday night. It doesnt matter that its not a performance. In fact, my mother enjoys a rehearsal just as much. Its fun for her to hear them struggle with a new piece, and then nail it after theyve played it a couple of times. Once upon a time, about 80 years ago, she played in a small jazz band herself, so each Sunday night, she is carried back to that carefree time in her life, on a magic carpet of grace notes, improvisation, and syncopation.
This afternoon, during a discussion group with Volunteer Sandy, some of the residents were wrapped in the mellow warmth of holiday memories, prompted by a little deck of dollar-store Christmas trivia cards. Sandy joked about bringing in a silly cheapo game, but it proved to be a priceless source of happy recollections. The women recalled family traditions that their great grandchildren will only read about in antique journals. They reminisced about making peanut brittle and divinity, floating marshmallows on top of steaming mugs of cocoa, wrapping fruitcakes in rum-soaked cheesecloth, caroling in the snowy night, wating up for santa Cclaus, and leaving him home made Christmas cookies. They laughed as they tried to remember all the words to the 12 Days of Christmas. They reached back into their pasts to answer the question, who was the teddy bear named after? They talked about the days when there were real candles on real trees. Do you know who wrote that famous poem, The Night Before Christmas? One of the ladies did, and she also remembered who wrote The Grench Who Stole Christmas. Do their grandchildren and great grandchildren even know that these were written masterpieces before they were TV shows? If theyre smart enough to pay attention to the stories of their great grandparents, theyll be far richer than if they got all the latest electronic gadgets in the world. Those stories might get a little mixed up in the telling, maybe not totally accurate, but with a little coaxing the memories flow, like the notes of a song, caressing the ear of one who smiles and remembers.