Saturday, December 18, 2010

Updating Memories, or

Why We Go Home For The Holidays

As people age out of college and into their
20s and 30s, they often find their regular
trips home for the holiday celebrations
difficult in several ways.

First there is the problem of regressing.
Adults tend to fall back into relationships with
their siblings and parents more typical of
adolescence, and the result is often to feel
somewhat frustrated or even powerless
in the face of certain seemingly inevitable
family dynamics. 

Tensions between family members are often
present but suppressed under the social pressure
of togetherness at the holidays, and boredom
is very common as time can hang heavy under
the rigors of enforced family unity.

All in all it can be a rough couple of days.
Relief and a feeling of liberation is often the
overwhelming feelings when returning to
one's own home from the family home at
the end of these ordeals; but the funny thing
is that once the trip is actually over, it does
not take much time for the trip to move within
our memory in a positive direction.

Our minds take a trip which was not entirely
satisfactory at the time - of course I exclude
the extreme episodes of dysfunction and
unhappiness which are a different matter - and
turns it into another in a series of happy memories,
these happy memories being mainly made up of
episodes which were generally flatter and sometimes
fraught with tension at their origin.*

It's not that all these episodes are remembered as
happy, it's that as a whole the series of them is very
satisfying to us.   Small gestures such as toasts or
giving thanks together grow in significance in
our memories.  Much is forgotten, and that which
is remembered is necessarily that which holds
interest for us.  The people we love have a special
charm for us in their absence,  and we come to
value those things which hold us together more than
those which divide us.

It's a very important process.  If romantic love
grows in the imagination, familial love takes hold
and survives in the memory.  Each family trip
extends the reign of memory over another piece
of time, keeping the family members' memories
aging in synch, and building together the foundation
for happy future memories.

*To speak of an experience's origin is to
acknowledge that the experience of anything
extends through all the times the mind 
remembers and dwells on it.

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