The first Thanksgiving in our home in the Hollywood Hills was a real joyous occasion. All of our children, and some of their friends filled the house with laughter. The house looked terrific. It appeared like we’d been living there for a long time. However, that was not the case.
We closed on the house on November 7th (26 years ago). Molly and I drove up the driveway to find the garage and front doors wide open. Large fichus trees in broken clay pots were in the courtyard. The inside was a literal mess. Furniture that had been bolted to the walls for earthquake proofing had been pulled loose by the movers. Thus, holes in many of the walls. Everything was extremely dirty. Molly broke down in tears. I assured her we could make the place look great by Thanksgiving.
It would be a week before our moving van arrived. During dinner that night, Molly organized her plan. The next day we hired house cleaners, window washers, and trash haulers. She spent a day selecting paint colors for the rooms. Then, we hired two young men to do the wall repairs, and the painting.
Moving day arrived, and we learned that the moving van was too large for our streets. As a result, the entire contents of the van had to be shuttled in smaller vehicles from half a mile away. It took the entire day as we directed placement of the furniture and boxes to the proper rooms.
The next day I unpacked boxes, and Molly began performing her magic. Each hour that passed things began falling into place. The tears of previous days turned to smiles, and laughter. We started to explore Studio City. We found the necessary retail establishments, the hardware store, super market, and of course the best places for carry out food. Then our attention was directed to the upcoming holiday.
When Thanksgiving arrived we were in our element. We spent the morning in the kitchen, chopping, dicing, and prepping. Soon, the turkey was in the oven, and we were making bloody Mary mix. The pictures we have of the two of us on that day tell the whole story. No captions necessary. This year will be the first Thanksgiving without my wonderful lady, the matriarch of our family. We’ve missed her each day since her passing, but the void on this day of thanks looms large.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things: A fifty five year love affair that ended too soon, three wonderful, healthy children; four beautiful, happy grandchildren, and good friends who continue to give me support. I’m also thankful for the memory of that Thanksgiving in 1988, and the twenty four that followed. My Memory Kit is over flowing.
Do you see those photos on the wall behind me? That was what we called "The Wall of Fame" in the den, at my parents' home in the Hollywood Hills. For 26 years we added photos to it and they sprawled across the wall in a wonderful haphazard way, the photos commemorating births, graduations, marathons finished, weddings, road trips, loved ones lost, and other great memories of our family and friends.
I spent as much time in that house as any other single place on earth and I'll tell you, I never got tired of looking at that the photos on that wall. And it was like a magnet for first time visitors to the house. You could gaze at it and get a true sense of the great life that my mom and dad built together, and if your picture was on the wall you could not help but feel lucky to be a part of it.
When we had to pack up and move after selling the house, the very last thing to go was the Wall of Fame. I remember my sister and I were there, along with some painters who were touching up the walls in a now empty house. We told them not to start on the den until we gave them the OK -- we were going to photograph the wall and then take down the pictures ourselves. I can't remember why, but we went out to run a quick errand, and when we returned one of the painters had taken it upon himself to "help" us; he had pulled all of the pictures down, and they were lying in a huge pile on the floor. Amy and I were devastated. There was no way to reconstruct it, no way to capture a parting photo of all those memories.
For me, that sad experience represented the all too common process of losing the memories of a loved one's life -- especially in the midst of dealing with a terrible disease like Alzheimer's. Once the odyssey began we could barely keep our heads above water. Over time we downsized, packed things up, stored some, sold some, and donated the rest. And every step of the way we had a nagging feeling that we should be doing something more to preserve the story of such a remarkable life.
The Memory Kit was born in that pile of photos on the floor. From that moment came the spark that ignited our passion to make it easy for everyone to capture and share the story of a lifetime, to get a head start and let your family and friends contribute along the way. Because you never know when your wall is going to come down.
Your memories matter.
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