Skip to main content

Embossed Memories

Submitted by Virginia Watts on Wed, 11/23/2022 - 12:10

Embossed: "...(a design carved, molded, or stamped on a surface or object." That's how it's defined in the Oxford Language Dictionary. Do you remember embossed napkins on your table on special days? I do. I hadn't thought about them until I was given one at a restaurant this morning. Then I remembered one holiday sitting at the table in my grandmother's kitchen. My mother and aunt were busy with preparations for dinner, my grandmother was probably setting the table. I must have been fidgeting or complaining about something, and I can't remember who handed me an embossed paper napkin and a box of crayons. "Here. Why don't you color this design." And whoever it was went back to putting olives in the molded glass dish that held the carrots, celery, and pickles. 

I remember clearly feeling happy about this little assignment, because the design was pretty, and I was happy to make it even prettier. But the paper was hard to color, and if the crayon was pressed too hard it tore. If the light wasn't just right, the embossing disappeared. I think I probably used two or three of the napkins until I found just the right pressure so that the color would take but not damage. embossed napkin

Isn't that the way with memories, though? We carry them, lightly embossed on our minds, our bodies. If we touch them too hard some of them can dissolve or tear. If we color them in, are we getting that right? Was the tree really that yellow against the blue sky that day? Was grandmother's house really white on the outside and so very dark on the inside? Do we even have that shade in our color box? Is the implement we use to fill in the blanks too blunt or too sharp for our fragile recollections? 

My Dad used to tell us his memories. Some of them were so detailed, so clearly defined, that I wonder now if he could possible have remembered with such clarity. But recently I do recall how he would say, when pressed, "Well, I do like to tell a good story." Was he coloring them in?

What truth do we rely on when we think about our own memories? Are they embossed deeply enough that we can see and feel them with any accuracy? Or are they fleeting impressions that fade or tear if examined or pressed too hard? 

The process of recall is on my mind. We will go to our Thanksgiving tables tomorrow and reminisce about the past. And each impression will be as real and as individual as each person sitting around that table. I will try to remember that and collect each impression without judgment or the urge to correct or redefine. Our memories are ours. They belong to us exactly as we recall them, as we feel them. They make us who we are, for better or for worse. But maybe with the different lights and colors others bring to them, they are a bit more colorful, a bit more rounded, given a bit more depth, and hopefully accepted with generosity and love.

May your Thanksgiving be full, and your giving thanks heartfelt.