I spent Christmas Eve in Stamford, CT--that's right, the city Jim transferred to after Pam left him hanging in "The Office." When my family moved from South Africa in 1997 we settled there, spending the first two weeks of our new lives in a Holiday Inn before finding an affordable condo--one large enough for a family of five--a little way from downtown, where we lived until moving to our current location in 2000. With New York City just ten minutes down the highway, most of Stamford is made up of the commuter lifestyle, and as jobs in the city are not always so long-lived, there is a transcience and intractibility to life in Stamford that makes connections and a sense of "home" a bit nebulous and, to be honest, a bit futile. We found our way to a lovely little church, and found it to be a home in the busy-ness of city life. Even then, making friends always seemed a little pointless, as the length of any relationship was always in question, and for an eight-year-old who'd just done the Atlantic Hop--leaving all that was familiar and settled--maintaining a sense of detachment was the wisest approach. Best not get too close, right?
Returning to that church with my family for a Christmas Eve service was thus a strange feeling of belonging. Russell, a friend one year my senior, was pleasantly surprised to revisit old ties, "a blast from the past" the best caption we could offer for what seemed an out-of-body experience. An hour and fond memories later, we left the church with hearts full of love. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I asked if we could go back to some of the landmarks in our family history. So we drove past the Holiday Inn, the Ferguson Library, the hospital, the Holiday Inn, our condo at 56 Coldspring Road--all places of importance and memory, and as we journeyed through the bustling city (I love that city), we all pointed out things that we remembered ("that's the McDonald's where..."; "that's the place we always got our bagels..."; "that's where I got my first eyeglasses..."; "that's where Dad used to work...") and noticed things that had changed ("didn't that used to be an IHOP?"; "I can't believe that record store closed!"). The memories we retain are remarkable.
All things change, and no better place to learn than a city. I'm grateful for the history that I've gleaned from the hubbub of Stamford, but it's always nice to be remdinded of the people that are constants. And like Nichole Nordeman sings, we wander and waver until we "find a foothold that's familiar," and for me this season, that's family and friends--while I remember old ones, I invest even more in the present ones. As we anticipate the festivities of the New Year's season, it's good to keep in mind the footholds that are points of departure--memories to hold dear and people to love--but it's also good to live now. We celebrate He who calls us to remember, but also He who has come to make all things new.