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Find Freedom in the Mundane Memories

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There was a sale on potatoes, and it seemed like everyone in the family decided to pick up a bag. At one point, I opened the pantry, and it smelled like my grandparents' cellar, the one side room that they filled with potatoes in a pile higher than I was tall.

Back in my memories, there is a small version of myself sitting in a field where my grandparents grew their potatoes. I was young enough not to fear bugs yet and would find snails, earthworms or pill bugs. I'd watch my Oma, bent over in a wide-legged stance I've only tried to master in yoga, more youthful in the image than any other memories I have. Dirt is in the cracks on her hands and propels me to remember her hands as she cut green beans and tossed them into a worn yellow bowl, with scratches from use leaving lighter streaks in certain areas. I can still feel that bowl's weight and those scratches from memory now.

It's a split second, and I'm back in my kitchen. Would any of these inanimate objects in my kitchen become those memories? Maybe it'll be the solid blue bowl I pulled out to make a tres leches cake with my daughter; she's seen it for her entire life. It's my cake and pancake bowl. The steel bowls are for popcorn. The glass bowls are for melting butter and cutting up hot chicken.

Creating memories is a lot of pressure, especially around the holidays. There's a type of freedom in realizing that some memories created are not ones you can control, for better or for worse.

A year after my dad died, my mom moved back to Germany to be with her parents. In talking to her about my memories, I realized that the estate sale I managed must have been more traumatic for me than I thought because I don't remember much. I remember only one vignette of the strangers in our home, an older man in a brown jacket grabbing a red plastic cup I had used my entire life. He turned it over and placed it back on the shelf dismissively.

I don't know how that estate sale ended, but that cup is gone. The next memory is me going to drink lukewarm beer at Pizza Hut under the watchful concern of my roommate, who came with me on the trip.

I'm thankful to be here to make memories, even if I cannot control their reach. But, in remembering the kindness of my roommate, the comfort of my Oma and the laughter of making cakes with my daughter, I'm again seeing that meaning moves beyond material things. Objects, at best, are only vessels by which we remember the people we love and who love us.

It's not about the right table runner. It's not about the right holiday wreath. The right optics can sometimes be irrelevant when the mundane filters through. It's the memory of always sitting on the left corner of the table, the side with a slash in the wood you could rub your thumb against. It's the flash of memory about the tassels of a lamp you remember your mother hating but since her in-laws bought it, needed to be put in the dining room for the Big Events. She'd wink at you and laugh when she'd pull it out of the closet.

Be thankful for the freedom in the lack of control; it's those memories that will keep you alive. Be yourself at your most mundane, at your most loving and at your most kind. It's your smile, your hands and your laughter that are the gifts that will pierce the veil of time. And, someday, your granddaughter may open the pantry, smell earthen potatoes and suddenly be in her grandparents' home for just one more minute.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.