January 11 – Memento Vitae

by Andrea Savee

2010 was the second year in a row, and only the second time in my life, that I sent out Christmas cards. I don’t remember whose idea it was originally, mine or my husband Mike’s, but it was immediately agreed upon as a good one. We also agreed to use an image from our thousands of digital photos.

2009’s choice was a branch from a tree at the end of our street. With a little post-processing, the image flowered into a festive combination of blue sky, red and amber leaves, and spiky balls dangling like ornaments. I enjoyed imagining loved ones receiving our card and smiling.

Last year’s card featured me lying on the driveway of our friends’ home in the high desert, a shot taken during one of our many extended stays. Mike Photo Shopped miniature mes in pastel shades—yellow, pink, green, the colors of a soft desert sky—flying in formation above the recumbent me. He then pasted his grinning face onto one of the flying wives. Thus, another holiday greeting was created, angels delivering love and good wishes, and hopefully eliciting a chuckle.

Could it be it that a little more than a year ago we were still walking six miles a day? Or was the branch photo taken during one of our shorter walks, abbreviated because of Mike’s Parkinson’s, to around the block? And how long ago was it that those walks became just to the end of the street with our cat Chico darting from car to tree to bush following after us?

We trained Kittums (only he knows his third name “and will never confess”) to go on these walks, enticing him slowly a few houses at a time, allowing him to find safe havens along the route. Under Sam’s truck. Along June’s hedges. Pressed against our legs, tail anchoring him to his pride.

While Mike and I may cover less ground on our feet, we’re still out and about in a big way. Our truck stays loaded with supplies— tents, sleeping bags, Tupperware crates of canned food. We can decide at nine a.m. to hit the road and by noon be setting up camp in Joshua Tree National Park or lunching with friends Stan and Laura at their new casa, in nearby Yucca Valley, which has become our home-away-from-home.

Now that the four of us are retired and in love with the desert, we play like kids again, piling into the four-wheeler to investigate the surrounding hills, taking mid-day naps and slow walks down dirt roads, spending an afternoon hour watching quail outside the backyard window, and sipping cocktails at l’heure bleue under the space heater on the patio, spying coyotes lurking among the Joshuas.

In addition to being wishes of good will, the cards, like Lakota Winter Counts, record a memorable event from the year. They are souvenirs not from foreign places, but from the familiar places of our lives. Memento vitae.

Andrea Savee lives in Lakewood, California with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Chico. Retired from a career in business, Andrea enjoys traveling and writing. Her work has appeared in SCN journals and anthologies.

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7 responses to “January 11 – Memento Vitae

  1. Andrea,
    Your piece on Christmas Cards touches me each time I read it — first time was as a member of Circle 15. These sentiments are just so lovely and touching. You and your husband have shown that we can indeed make lemonade out of lemons! We just need to make a few adjustments in all except our love for each other. Congratulations, Andrea.
    mitzi boyd

  2. Thank you, Mitzee. Over the last two years, I so often hear myself thinking “It’s not the end of the world” when something familiar drops away. And I’m remembering that I’ve always liked the lyrics from a song by REM, a group from the 80s: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” True words. See you back in Circle 15!

  3. Andrea, that was beautifully written!

  4. Thank you, Ellie!

  5. A very nice piece of writing, Andrea. A reminder that little bits and pieces of living can fill a heart to the brim.

  6. Andrea
    your piece reminds us all to “stop and smell the roses” and to make the most of each moment no matter what we’ve been given. Thank you. Lovely.

  7. Very nice, Andrea. It’s all about the simple things and this was an excellent reminder. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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