When looking back at a lifetime of memories, relationships, milestones, and decisions, it’s easy to lump them into categories and think you’re done with it. That was the “first job” stuff. That was the “move to the big city” year. That was the “neglectful father” stage. That was the “4-year relationship breakup” moment. That was the “new friends” phase. That was the “former BFF” summer.
They come together in weeks, months, or maybe years. They are represented by a blog entry here, a Facebook album there. They take up our dreams or nightmares for awhile, fill our therapy sessions and coworker coffee breaks until the topic becomes stale. And over time, these moments become what we think are distant memories, like faces of our loved ones that have passed and with each day we find it harder and harder to remember every detail of their face, their voice, their personality.
And then, the littlest thing makes it all so clear.
When it’s a good memory, it’s so very very good. It’s a ticket stub from a cherished family vacation, and suddenly you can remember walking across the rocks at Eagle’s Nest in Germany, the fog surrounding you as you look down on this beautiful land and wonder at the man who made this his hideout as he plotted mass murder. It’s a recipe written by hand by an uncle or grandfather, stained with andouille grease and and the ink fading because you’ve pinned it up in your kitchen time and again as you make a roux, the smell filling your soul and your apartment. It’s a college hoodie, the one you wore almost every night in your dorm as you studied late, watched episodes of House with your roommate, or walked across a campus cluttered with fallen leaves, admiring the red brick buildings.
And then there are the other memories. Maybe not bad, but they remind you of how something good changed course, perhaps when you weren’t ready for it. It’s a birthday card that proves first loves never go away. It’s a photo of two 17-year-olds on a bed after a high school basketball game, ready to stay up and giggle over boys all night. It’s an email from someone that left long ago that comes once a year, that’s like a knife to the heart — that you refuse to answer, knowing the pain at only reading it is better than what responding to it would bring. It’s seeing a tri-colored Corgi on the street and remembering that your little one is no longer at home to greet you.
It’s the littlest things that make it hardest to move on.
And in all this, it’s the little things that can also make it worthwhile to move on. It’s the text from your mom on a Saturday morning, just to say she loves you. It’s the flowers from your friend and her husband when you weren’t expecting it. It’s the lemon cake from your coworkers, and the note from your old boss. It’s seeing all your closest friends at the same dinner table, celebrating you, and celebrating life, love, good food, and friendship.
And then you realize, none of these are little things at all. They’re all very big, wonderful things — the things that people do to help you move on, in their own little way.