Dec 23, 2022 • 6M

Scallop

When Christmas Memories Make for Lifelong Wisdom

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Before we begin…What’s your most valuable Christmas memory?

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I have a memory that surfaces every Christmas time.

My father, tall and unshaved, though the best he can do is thick five o’clock shadow, stands at the stove in an old t-shirt and shorts, humming to himself. He’s tending a sizzling pan. It gives off a rich scent: salt, pepper, and ocean brine.

Delicious, caramelized, seared scallops. 

There’s nothing like a scallop sautéed in butter with the aforementioned light seasonings. I can’t even tell you what organism a scallop comes from, but it’s truly the foie gras of the sea. We scoop them right out of the pan, still sizzling, and gobble them down like pelicans. It’s pure seafood bliss. Pure bliss, in general, snacking on seafood on some random Saturday with my father.

Honestly, this might not even be a Christmas memory.

Perhaps it comes to mind from the general air of good cheer, a golden tinsel surrounding these images and emotions. When it comes to memories of my parents, this air persists. In this way, I have a selective memory, a positive hope, a blindness that preserves the past. I’ve done my fair share of childhood-critique already. Some things need to be left untouched. 

My father is the only man I know who fiercely upholds birthday traditions I never asked for (breakfast in bed) or Christmas ones (a present in my room, and the insane amount of food we make for our small family). He’s also an oddity in the genetic lineage: standing over six feet tall and full of the unbridled charisma required of serial entrepreneurs.

He literally doesn’t fit into this world. It’s only recently that he can buy size 15 shoes that fit him every time and since has gathered a collection of over twenty pairs.

He has made no error that he has not apologized for. He knows his flaws better than I do, and sons know their father’s flaws well. I’ve spent my whole life trying to measure up to him, silently comparing and competing, wondering about and hoping for the day I overtake him.

All the while I know that day will be a little death. We spend our whole lives in preparation to overtake the people who raised us, those whom we always wanted to measure up to. To no longer need them more than they need us.

That day is faster approaching than we realize. And once it does, there’s no going back. 

Another memory; this time I know it’s from a Christmas Eve not long ago. It’s the middle of the night. I wake when my father comes in. He kisses me on the forehead, whispers something unintelligible, deposits a little gift on my bedside table and leaves the room. It’s a Christmas miracle better than snow: I am made as small and rich as a buttered scallop. 

With love such as this what need have I of overtaking anyone? 

Out of the house now, I’m aware that many people have not experienced this kind of love. Only dreamt of it. Or they’ve had it once, and it was stolen from them. Not everyone has such shining memories of their fathers sautéing scallops for them. Love is lacking in many corners of the world.

I have to wonder, what would we live like if we all made little miracles for each other, on a random Saturday or in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve? What indelible memories might we make together and pass on, not for the selfish act of overtaking, but the for the goal of widening the amount of goodness and light in the world? Where love is lacking, it could be filled.

I can’t be a father to everyone. I can’t fill the whole world’s lack. But in thinking of what my parents have done for me, this is what it means to overtake them: Becoming a miracle worker, with scallops and otherwise, every day of my life.


Reader Question: What’s your most valuable Christmas memory?

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Thank you for reading! You can make my Christmas a little sweeter by sharing this story with someone you love.

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Until January’s story,

Love, Joy, and Peace to you.

Zach