Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Future File

published in the South Shore Breaker - December 28, 2016
It’s almost the end of the year and you know what that means. It means that many of us spend time coming up with resolutions for the New Year. Some people will resolve to lose weight or maybe stop smoking. Some will make promises to spend less time online and more time with the family. But I won’t be making any resolutions.

We have a different New Years tradition in our family. It has been years since we have gone to a New Years Eve party. We spend the evening at home, usually with a few family members. We have a slow leisurely meal, a fondue or something similar. And we spend some time with our "Future File". 
The Harley family's Future File has turned into a memory file, a tool to record memories for the past year.
Im not sure why we called it a future file when we started the tradition twenty three years ago. But we did, and we actually have a file folder with the words printed on it so the name has stuck. Our file folder only comes out on New Years Eve, and then it gets put away again until the following year. 

In the beginning, we did make a few predictions for the coming year and then we reviewed them the following New Years Eve to see which ones came true. There are always family debates and lively discussions about whether to give someones predictions a point or not. No points are given to "predictions" that were known to be facts. Well be going on a vacation, well be getting a new computer, that type of thing is not eligible for points.

But mostly our Future File has turned into a memory file, a tool for us to record our memories for the past year. Some of us keep it short and sweet, and some of us fill a page. We have a scribe, so each person talks about their memories and we all get to listen and share in the recollections.

We start the process by reviewing what was recorded in years past. We have twenty three years of recorded memories, so we pick a couple of years at random and read out the things that were written that year. We always include where we were and who was there. Sometimes we spent the evening with friends at a restaurant, but usually we were at home with family. Often reading notes from past years brings back memories that would otherwise be completely forgotten over time.

We also talk about and record our biggest surprise for the year. Sometimes its something lovely, like the time the whole family arranged for our son to come for a surprise visit - the first time we had seen him in almost two years. Sometimes its something tragic, like the unexpected death of a friend or family member. Our file shows the ups and downs of life, the sorrow as well as the joy. Important milestones, and inconsequential moments. 

I might remember the big events from past years, although as time goes on that is becoming more doubtful. But without writing things down, I would never remember the small things.

I wouldn
t remember that 1994 was the first year that my son told me that he loved me, without me telling him first. And I wouldnt remember that my son swore in front of me for the first time the very next year.

Likely I would remember renting a cottage in Cape Breton two summers in a row, but would I remember that when we were at home we had an end of day ritual of walking to the bench in the corner of our yard? We used to walk to the back of our 2 acre property and watch our three dogs run and play while we relaxed and talked about our day.

We would certainly remember the miracle of our granddaughter going home after spending three months in the hospital when she was born. Her birth weight was just one and a half pounds and she was finally released from the hospital just before Christmas. But would we remember hearing her first cry over the telephone if we didn
t write it down as one of our best memories of the year?

I would have lots of general memories of gardening, but I likely would have forgotten that our Giant Schnauzer Cinder ate all the squash from the vines in 2002.

Who would forget the year that a transport truck jackknifed and landed on top of their van, resulting in days spent in a trauma unit and months of rehabilitation? That would definitely overshadow family arguments about whether our son should be allowed to wear a wallet chain to school or not.

Taking our granddaughter for fish and chips, or teaching her to swing a bat, or eating pancakes at a sugar bush with our grandson are memories that may fade with time. But writing them down preserves them and re-reading the words jogs our memories enough to bring back the event in our minds.

As for memories from this year, I started writing this column late in April and have learned a lot about writing and about myself along the way. I am thankful for the notes and emails I have received from some readers, who have been most kind to me throughout my learning experience. It makes me happy to have you share your thoughts with me and to know I have touched some lives in a small way.
Each family has their own traditions for New Year's Eve. Staying home with friends and family over a long leisurely meal and spending time reflecting on the past year has become our family tradition.
You will have your own traditions for the New Year, but I hope you take some time to reflect on 2016 and the small joys in your life. In the words of songwriter Kid Rock, "Let's raise a glass, heres to you dear. Happy New Year". And may we all have something good to focus on in 2017.


  1. What a great blog post Sara, and a wonderful way to capture those quickly forgotten but oh so important life memories. Great idea, thank you for sharing.

  2. What a treasure your Future File is!!!
    Yes, those little memories that might get lost if they weren't written down are so important!


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