Shared Memories – On Family with a Grateful Nod to the Story-telling of Downton Abbey

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Shared memories…those places, friendships, events, emotions, experiences, and impressions known intimately by that little circle called family of origin. Notwithstanding, shared memories can also be the property of life-long friends or even a happenstance experience of strangers. Still I am enthralled by the great legacy of shared memories – some shimmering with joy and some we wish forgotten – both binding us together as family.

What a blessing are the in-law family members added to the fold! Those who listen with interest or at least value that bond – as dinner conversation is hijacked by memories of growing up together. What a gift that arena is where shared memories are rehearsed and celebrated…one. more. time.

For those reading not Downton Abbey fans, don’t miss this lesson on family life. Mary and Edith are adult sisters (missing the youngest, Sybil, whose sweetness had knit the other two together, before her untimely death). Their relationship is not close, to say the least, and their actions have, at times, been brutally hurtful toward each other.

In the next-to-last episode of the final season of Downton Abbey, Mary’s venomous words cut deep again, seemingly destroying once again Edith’s prospect for happiness. Then in a turn of the story, (spoiler alert), Mary accepts the proposal of Henry, and they prepare to wed days later.

Enter Edith…as we watch enrapt. What next between these two?

Sarene Leeds, of the Wall Street Journal, recaps this bit of the episode:

“By the time of Mary’s wedding day, Edith has cooled off enough to not only attend the nuptials, but take the high road when it comes to her relationship with her sister. She hasn’t gotten over what Mary did, but family remains paramount to her:

“In the end, you’re my sister,” Edith tells Mary. “And one day, only we will remember Sybil. Or Mama or Papa, or Matthew or Michael or Granny or Carson or any of the others who have peopled our youth. Until at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.”

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“Only we will remember…” How powerful that is! Not in an exclusive, “none others welcomed” sort of way…but in a high value, meant to be treasured way.

I think of our children – spending their pre-school years in eastern Tennessee, then living the rest of their childhood in North Africa. What they missed and what they gained…in this somewhat nomadic life with all the hellos and goodbyes…is their shared experience.

We also share it with them…for which I am beyond grateful…and out of which I can be, at times, this mama who clings a bit to them…not as much to the memories as to the ones who soldiered with us through that life. We know each other in that shared memory way.Blog - Running into His Marvelous Light2006 May -- Oualidia weekend 1522006 May -- Oualidia weekend 116 - Copy

They remember all the moves, the beauty of those places, and all the wonderful friendships in each place. They understand God’s grace in that. In some ways, as expats in countries not our own, we grew up together.

They remember the sweet times with family back in the States…and the growing up together (through too occasional visits but deep belonging). Blog - Shared Memories - OcracokeBlog - Shared Memories - Ocracoke 2013 (2)

They remember their grandmother, my mom, who died too early. They remember how much she loved them (I hope); for sure they remember the woman she was.Blog - MomIMG_0023 (2)Blog - Shared memories - Mom and Christie

So many shared memories include other loved ones who are no longer here (cousin Chad and their Uncle Robert)…and births, graduations, weddings, life accomplishments and disappointments…and on it goes.

My hope and prayer, like with Edith’s wonderful lines from Downton, is that, as adult life fills with relationships and experiences less-shared, we return regularly to the bonds of shared memories…including making new ones together. Edith returned to her childhood home to witness her sister Mary’s wedding…as hard as it was for her; it mattered.

You may be in the throes of change in your life that you can’t stop. A looming divorce, a frightening illness, a company down-sizing – where loss of history, situation, or relationship are all too present. Shared memories cannot be destroyed in community – they may feel altered by present circumstance, but they don’t have to be. Our memories belong to us.

My dad has Alzheimer’s. His memories are diminished now. When we visit, we remind him of stories that bring joy to his heart. We look at photo albums and remember together those faces who love him. We, his children, keep his memories for him. Such a privilege for us.Blog - Dad - Alzheimers - Feb 2016

What a great legacy we have with each other – this life we shared…this life we share.Blog - Shared Memories - egypt (2)

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