I’m not going to lie. I’m sentimental. No, not in a kitschy, Hallmark greeting card kind of way. In fact, I’m quite the opposite of tangible sentimentality. I’ve wrapped birthday gifts in newspaper (it was the only thing I could find…) and thrown out old baby clothes using the logic, “I haven’t used this since mom and dad brought me home from the hospital. Don’t need this anymore!”
But I love reminiscing. I love tales of “the good old days”—even if the good old days were last year, or last month, or yesterday. At parties, I’m that guy, the one who brings up the same old stories over and over again. I’m Chris Farley in his classic, eponymous Saturday Night Live skit: “Remember that one time when you did that thing? Remember? Do you remember? Yeah. That was awesome.”
Half of the time, I expect someone to smack me with a foam roller and say, “Enough already!” The other half of the time I want to smack myself with a foam roller. But I can’t help myself.
This past weekend was the FLEET FEET staff Christmas party. Any party that brings together people who are not only all distance runners, but also coworkers and running buddies is bound to be rife with recalled hilarity. Let’s face it, runners are just big kids, and when you’ve got a bunch of runners in a running store, you end up with brilliant events like foam roller baseball and an unexpected air horn exit from the employee bathroom (a terrifying experience that makes you grateful you used the bathroom before the surprise). I was in tears as we remembered shenanigans that occurred both on the roads and in the store, most of which were courtesy of two particular mischievous souls.
I won’t name names but it was Luke and Jake.
At any rate, as I was driving home from the party, Julie Andrews’s “My Favorite Things” started playing on the radio. I’ve always thought it strange that the song is lumped in with Christmas carols; The Sound of Music isn’t exactly a Christmas classic. I guess I’ve always attributed the categorization to its frequent “wintry” references: warm woolen mittens, sleigh bells, snowflakes (that stay on my nose and eyelashes), silver white winters, and so on. But it occurred to me that the song is about remembering, and there is something inherently Christmas-y about remembering.
Christmas is a time for nostalgia, for gathering around the fire with friends, drinks in hand, and talking and laughing and conjuring up old memories. Memories that make you laugh. Memories that make you cry. And hopefully more memories that make you laugh.
As sentimental as I am, I am startled by how much I forget. It’s frightening. I’ll look through old photo albums and think, “Oh, my gosh! I totally forgot about that!” It doesn’t make sense. It’s the little things that make life so awesome—the daily quirks and eccentricities—and yet it’s those very things that I most often forget.
As a writer, and I find myself jotting down random observances both visual and audible. I absolutely love the idiosyncrasy of humanity. It inspires me. It makes me smile. Truth is always more bizarre than invention. That’s why I write non-fiction. I’m not creative enough to compete with reality. People are too awesome. And I find an inordinate amount of joy in observing the expression of the human race. After all, as the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up.
The problem is that while I am disciplined enough to document my observances, I am also unorganized, and the documentation—which is usually done on random scraps of paper and floating post-it notes—is subsequently lost and forgotten.
But the other day, in keeping with the holiday spirit of favorite things and remembering, I found a gem while I was rummaging through my bookshelf.
STL to LAX. European band (Swedish?) several rows ahead of me trying to cram three guitars into overhead compartment…
The words were scribbled on a light blue index card that had been hiding in the pages of a book I had read on the way to Kona, Hawaii, when I covered the 2011 Ironman World Championship. I had traveled by myself and, since I had no one to talk to for twelve hours, had plenty of time to people watch. As it turned out, the people-watching was fantastic. But I had completely forgotten. Until now.
“Oh, my gosh! How could I have not remembered these guys!” I thought as I read the notes about the Swedish band. Their images flashed before me as if they were still maneuvering their skinny jeans and sculptured hair into row 18, seats D, E, and F, all while trying to stuff three guitar cases and one mystery instrument into the overhead compartment. After fifteen minutes and several vehement admonitions by the flight attendant, the guitars slid gracefully into the overhead bin, and the band slid into their seats with delight. (I was shocked. My money was on the overhead bins.)
I continued reading. The moment the plane had reached cruising altitude, the man across the aisle from us methodically took off his shoes and socks and paraded, much to my horror, straight into the lavatory. Half of the plane was reading the same issue of US magazine: “A Princess Under Pressure!” which, of course, featured a distressed Kate Middleton. I, for my part, was sitting next to a ballistics tester from Australia. For over an hour, he lectured me on the finer details of ballistic resistance armor, which topic, admittedly, elicited the occasional startled glance from nearby passengers. The pièce de résistance, however, was the final line scrawled across the index card. It was a curious observance that had taken place during the second leg of the trip as we traveled from LA to Hawaii:
Tallest Swedish band member takes eight stalks of celery into lavatory and returns empty-handed. Celery, ironically, came from guitar case…
I laughed as I read the notes. It was a fabulous collection of cameos, little vignettes of the human race. Ultimately, my little compilation was unimportant, but at the time I thought everything was quite entertaining.
And if it makes you laugh, isn’t it worth remembering?
I often wish I could run with a pen and notepad. I can’t even begin to recall all the crazy things I’ve seen, said, and heard during the daily miles, whether I run with others or on my own. I imagine most of what I find hilarious at mile twenty doesn’t translate in later conversation (actually, I know this for a fact). But when you and your running buddy are out there laughing so hard you can hardly breathe, and you’re doubled over in pain as you try to keep running—well, it’s simply one of the best feelings ever. It’s finding joy in the details and humor in the ridiculous. It’s seeing the quirks of the daily. It’s seeing the unexpected in the routine. It’s foam roller baseball and an air horn behind the bathroom door. It’s turning fleeting moments into stories you’ll tell over and over again.
As Julie Andrews would say, it’s one of my favorite things.
This Christmas season, may you remember what makes you laugh. May you start an inordinate number of stories with, “Remember that one time…?” And may you be surrounded by people who do.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner. Her second book, Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story, will be released in 2014.