Something New

One year, my husband and I went out for dinner on the night after Thanksgiving.  The soup special was called something like “Turkey Medley,” and it was one of the best-tasting soups I’ve ever had.  Somehow, the cook had managed to include almost all of the flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in one soup…the turkey, the dressing and the roasted vegetables….all of it.  Right then and there I decided that the following year, we were going back to that same restaurant on the day after Thanksgiving so I could have that soup again.  And this time, I planned to take extra home with me.  So you can imagine my disappointment a year later when the waiter informed me that the soup special that night was clam chowder.

IMG_1071I think it’s only natural to want to repeat something that we’ve really enjoyed, and sometimes we’re able to do just that.  My husband and I fell in love with Sanibel Island the first time we visited and it’s still one of our very favorite vacation spots.  But if I’m honest, I have to say that our first visit was the best, because we were discovering someplace brand new, and to us at least, quite wonderful.  It’s the same way when I like a movie so much that I go back to the theater to watch it again.  I still like it the second time I see it, but I don’t really enjoy the movie as much as I did the first time.

And this is something I have to remember each year as we move into the holiday season, because  Christmas is a time when I find myself trying, often subconsciously, to relive the happy moments of past Christmas celebrations.  But the truth is, I’m no longer a child so I don’t feel the almost unbearable excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and knowing that there’s a pile of presents for me under our tree.  My son and daughter are also grown up now, so the joy of watching their excitement on Christmas morning is also a thing of the past.  I’ll cherish those special memories forever, but the truth is that they are not going to be repeated.

And that’s okay.  Because if we spend all our time trying to recreate the things we enjoyed in the past, we’ll never be able to appreciate all that the present has to offer.  It’s true that I’ll never again celebrate Christmas as a young child or as the mother of young children, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this holiday and in all the ones that will follow.  For the next few years, I’ll enjoy being the grandmother of small children, which has it’s own benefits.  I get to share their excitement and joy, but their own parents have to do most of the work of preparing for the holidays.

My husband and I have been back to the restaurant that served that fabulous soup many times, but it’s never been offered again.  Clearly, it was a one-time experience.  But we have tried other menu items and specials, and many of them were absolutely delicious.  Which just goes to show, I think, that sometimes we have to let go of the past in order to fully appreciate the present…..

84 thoughts on “Something New

  1. Ann, this is a very moving and relevant post for me. I have been feeling a little sense of malaise about Christmas and I suspect it’s mainly due to the things you listed. I needed this pep talk.

    Also, I wonder if that restaurant just put all the leftovers in a blender and added some turkey stock to make it like soup. Just sayin’.

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  2. This post summarizes life. Enjoy what you have while you have it, because you never know when it might disappear. We have had many such attempts to recreate the perfection of a first visit, only to be disappointed in one way or another. At first, we got annoyed, a kind of How dare they? moment. Then we said, well it is different this time, what can we do to make it special, turn down a different path, try a different dish or go with no expectations and prepare to be blown away. We have continued to find firsts in the most unlikely places and we are OK with that. Life changes and so should we. Have a fabulous experience wherever you find it Ann. Allan

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    • I couldn’t agree more, Allan! If we try to recreate the past, we are doomed to be disappointed. But when we can embrace and appreciate the new, then we’re so much happier. And sometimes the new is actually better than the old!

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  3. I am glad you mentioned your grandchildren. You will still be the excitement of the Christmas season as they gather around the Christmas tree. That will be new and yet so old as these childhood experiences will be revived and take on a fresh glow with the help of your grandchildren.

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  4. This is a very honest post and, I think, many of us feel the same way. It’s impossible to capture the wonder and almost unbearable excitement we had as kids. Experiencing the joy through your kids and grandkids is fabulous… but different.

    If you frequent the restaurant often, and the chef is still there, I bet you could ask for his/her recipe… or find out if it will ever be served again, and when. One thing I’ve learned over the years, just because it’s not on the menu doesn’t mean it isn’t available.

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    • Thanks, Janis. One of the things I like best about reading and writing is it gives us the chance to see that others often feel the same way that we do. And I really wish I had thought to ask about that soup! The problem is now so many years have gone by that they have new people in the kitchen. At the time, one of the owner’s sons was the main cook, but he has since moved to another city to start his own restaurant….darn it!

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  5. This was such an important thing to write about, Ann. We set ourselves up for disappointment when we wish for every experience to stand up to some gold standard from the past. I agree with you that we cannot really cling to what has gone by no matter how good it was. We need to be truly thankful for all that brought us happiness and joy – and yet, we must go forwards with new eyes.

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  6. We can’t re-create the past but we can enjoy the present and plan for the future. I think we need to savour the good memories of the past while focusing on the good experiences we have in the present. As for the future, I stay hopeful; I try to keep dreams alive for what I’ll experience in years to come. grand-children provide an opportunity to re-live some experiences as long as we are open to the modifications they create to accommodate the times.

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    • I couldn’t agree more! Our memories are for savoring, but not for trying to relive the past. And we have the ability to make things enjoyable now, and we always should have hope for the future. The things we look back on with such fondness now were once brand new! I find that thought comforting.

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  7. There is a precious life lesson in your skilfully written post. Indeed, when we keep longing for the sweeter slices of our past, it also means we could be closing ourselves from the joys the present may have in store.

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    • Thanks so much for your kind comment! I have a tendency to look backwards a bit too much, so this is a lesson I need to repeat to myself on a regular basis. There is always a lot to enjoy in the present, once we quit looking at it through the lens of the past, I think.

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  8. Ann, a beautiful and wise post that resonates with me. Quite I few times I’ve returned to the same holiday destination and felt a dip in emotions as that initial feeling is never replicated, the sense of epiphany only comes once per location for the most part!

    How fantastic that you will be with your grandchildren for Christmas and their sense of wonder will be infectious! I’m fascinated how our approach and emotions to the holiday changes as we grow up, have our own families etc.

    Wishing you a very special time! X

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    • I think you are exactly right about that sense of epiphany only occurring once per location. Afterwards, we may still enjoy a certain place, but it’s never quite as exciting as the first time. And yes, I’m so very fortunate that my grandchildren live nearby so that I can share Christmas with them. And it’s a double bonus: seeing Christmas through their eyes is a new and unique joy, but it also brings back wonderful memories of Christmases past!

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  9. A great post and I think many of us at our age are feeling different about the holidays. Life is full of transitions and even my 20 something children are experiencing changes after leaving college and are staring down adulthood. I think grandchildren bring back the wonder of Christmas. I’m still waiting for mine.

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    • I think they will bring back the wonder of Christmas…my three-year old grandson already does! We went to a light display a couple of weeks ago, and he was SO excited to see it all. And you’re right, it’s not just people our age who feel the differences, it’s people of almost any age as they change and grow. Heck, I remember that I reacted very differently to Christmas as a teenage than I did as a child!

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  10. Your blog post reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend about disengaging – how we must disengage from the past so we can engage with the present and move on to the future. The pandemic has taught me some lessons about disengaging from the “normal” or what I perceive it to be. And so it is with seasonal expectations. I’m learning to be more present and stop the wishing and comparing. Merry Christmas to you.

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    • I like how you put that, because disengage is exactly the right word. We need to regulate the past to our memories and not try to recreate it, because it never works. Once we stop expecting things to be as they used to be, it’s so much easier to enjoy them as they are. The pandemic soft of forced all of us to face this, at least on some level.

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  11. That restaurant was probably just trying to use up some leftovers! I have always had a hard time with change, and when there were times when I should have initiated a job change or other change it was always too easy to stay with the status quo. When change has been imposed on me, like getting laid off from a job or when we sold our house to move in with my mom, I have felt sad about all the things that will never be the same. But then as I move forward in the new life, there are new things to love and new routines, plus good memories of the past.

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    • I think they did…and I’m pretty sure I remember the waiter saying something to that effect when he told us about the Turkey soup special. But darn, it was delicious! And I’m a bit like you…I tend to resist change, clinging to the old familiar ways because they seem easier and more comfortable. And yet when I do change, I often find I rather like it!

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    • Oh thank you so much, Martha! That is such a nice thing to say…especially since you know how much I get out of your posts. Yours is one of the very few blogs I regularly share with my friends. Merry Christmas!!!

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    • That’s a pretty good policy! I admit that I will never give up going to Sanibel…it feels like a second home, and sometimes that familiarity is exactly what I need to relax and “recharge.” But I am getting to the point where I don’t want to repeat other vacation experiences for exactly the same reasons you don’t!

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  12. We have a similar experience with a local cafe that served the best pear martinis, one night. Never again. The menu changed the next day– and the bartender left soon thereafter so they were no more.

    I agree about not getting stuck in the past or you’ll miss all that the present has to offer.

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    • Yes, I’m pretty sure that soup was made by the owner’s son, who was studying to be a chef and who left to open his own restaurant not too long afterwards (with his parent’s blessing.) The new cooks are good, but they clearly didn’t get the recipe for that soup!

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  13. I’ve been thinking about something similar. (Some) traditions are born from doing something one time and feeling so great about it, that you continue chasing that feeling. The reality is you’ll never be able to feel exactly as you did that first time, but we spend a lot of our lives trying. Thanks for articulating this, Ann!

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  14. Amen! We do like to revisit those things and events that gave us so much pleasure. But it is so true that the law of diminishing returns exists and what we craved, when offered in abundance, can lose its appeal. I love the conclusion of living in the moment to savor what is versus what was!

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    • It can be so hard to let go of the past, but the truth is, when we were experiencing it, the past was the present, right? So I think the lesson is that we always need to stay open to the gifts that the present has to offer. Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  15. A lovely post.

    Christmas will be different this year, that’s for sure. My grandparents are no longer with us, but, as always, I will be spending a wonderful Christmas Eve with my niece & nephew and we always have fun! 🙂

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    • I’m so sorry about your grandparents…that’s such a special relationship and it’s so hard when we lose them. But I’m glad you’ll be spending your Christmas Eve with your niece and nephew. That should be wonderful!

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  16. I love this post so much. Personally I mostly have unhappy memories of Christmas. But that’s a long story and I won’t bore you here. I had the opposite response when my husband told me he wanted us to go home for Christmas this year. Last year we skipped it due to COVID and I have to admit having all that time to myself it was my favorite Christmas ever. I love my family very much, but I don’t love gift exchanges, and the stress of holiday stuff. But I promised I would be gracious and he promised that people wouldn’t feel bad if I don’t come bearing gifts (we are a little light on funds this year). Let’s see how it goes. Can I let go of past irritation and disappointment and embrace just being with our families? I sure hope so. 🙂

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    • I hope so too, but if you can’t, don’t be too hard on yourself. The downside of Christmas is all the expectations that we not only put on ourselves, but that others put on us. The truth is, you really do get to decide how you want to celebrate and what is, and isn’t, meaningful to you. Skip the gifts and let your presence be your present, is what I say! Best of luck to you….and good wishes for a peaceful holiday season!

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  17. You are so right, Ann. Each season of life comes with its own blessings. We’d be wise to embrace what is right before us rather than long for what no longer is. P.S. Food.com has a recipe for Leftover Thanksgiving Soup. Includes the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. Maybe you could experiment and add a bit of the green bean casserole too!

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  18. My husband and I were such creatures of habit when dining out before the Pandemic. We have been a little more adventurous of late. You are so right about Christmas not having the same appeal as it once did. Have a lovely time with your grandchildren.

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  19. Ah, what wise advice, Ann — letting go of the past to enjoy the present. I’m sorry you haven’t been able to get a repeat on the special soup (it sounds wonderful!). Perhaps the restaurant changed chefs?? But anyway, yes, we all need to remind ourselves to enjoy each stage of life as it comes.

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    • The owner’s son used to be their main cook, and he left to start his own restaurant later that year, I think it was. The food there is still very good, but some of the specials have definitely changed, as I think those are chosen by the head cook/chef. And as someone who tends to dwell in the past a bit too much, I wrote this post to remind myself just as much as everyone else that it’s so much better to focus on the gifts that the present offers!

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  20. Love this! It’s not about newness, or novelty. It’s not about reliving or recreating the past. It’s simply about the little things.

    It’s the minute and the miniscule that are so sure and so steady when we are shaking. The dog-eared pages of a familiar friend. The parasympathetic glow of a film we know by heart. The gentle kisses of light caressing through the blinds. The kindness crackled into the glaze of a cup that cradles warmth and sweetness. The rhythmic monotony motioning through the mundane provides us with a relief that we can rely on, and we relish the little wafts of magic affectionately dusting the world with wonder.

    “Never underestimate the big importance of small things”, Matt Haig says, because there are only small things. Vibrating below the surface tension of even the most solid of substantial things, is a teeming coalition of infinitesimally small things coming together to form something unfathomably larger than themselves. Anything giant or grand, anything seemingly massive in scale, can only come to be because it stands supported by the perichoretic dance of particles swaying in unison to the beating heart of something ineffably more beyond.

    The most sacred parts of ourselves are made up of an effervescent series of small moments and little treasures; a network of nanonscopic marvels in miniature dying to reach out to all the other little whispering secrets of the world; small secrets with a big hearts and big message, a big message given to ourselves and to those we care for; you are little but you are fiercely loved, you are small but you are mighty and strong, you are here, you are still breathing, and you will be alright.

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    • Thank you for you eloquent comment! And I do agree with you that the big moments are really made up of many, many small ones coming together in just the right way in just the right time. That’s a very good perspective to keep in mind. Thank you again!

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  21. What a wonderful and very wise post Ann and I can relate on so many levels. On the meal, the excitement of Christmas and going back to a holiday destination to possibly recreate a special memory. But what I really loved was what you said about creating new ones. Life is a smorgasbord of many experiences and maybe the best thing we can do is taste as many different ones that we can. Wishing you and your lovely family many joys and blessings this Christmas season. 💚 xx

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  22. Awesome post! I am so glad I am reading this just before Christmas! I want to wish you a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year! You are so right about embracing change in our lives. If we are not open to change, we might miss something amazing. 🙂

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  23. Hello Ann. I can so relate to this post. I especially appreciate this bit of wisdom: if we spend all our time trying to recreate the things we enjoyed in the past, we’ll never be able to appreciate all that the present has to offer. Each phase of life…each day actually…brings something new and potentially wonderful, if we open ourselves up to it. I found your blog through a comment you left on Janis’s Retirement Reflections. I’m so glad I did. This post really spoke to me today. Thank you and merry Christmas to you and yours!

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! I’m sorry for the delay in replying…we celebrated with our kids on Christmas Eve this year so I haven’t been keeping up with my blog. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!!

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  24. I watch a few movies that actually enjoy more than the first time. Often times for me I am too busy paying attention to what is happening I miss a lot, then when I watch it a second time it is better. I have a favorite movie that we watch often that took me until the fourth time to actually enjoy it, I finally got it. There was a big part of it that distracted me (the main actor never shows his face!) and by the 4th time I was able to focus on the intricacies of the movie and really see how good it was. Also, sometimes if my favorite dish is not longer served at one place I would rather go to a different restaurant. And the Holiday thing . . . my mom was so great at being flexible and so we kinda had a different one every year. This year is an odd one. Merry Christmas!

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    • This is certainly an odd year, in more ways than one! I do enjoy rereading favorite books, and find I get more out of them the second, or third, time I read them. But I think of that as “digging deeper” rather than simply trying to recreate the past. In my mind, those are two different things, but that could just be me. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas!!!

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  25. Oh, boy, do your words touch me deeply here, Ann! I get it…and I can also equate it with when I create something, I enjoy it so much that when it comes time to finish it there is a certain melancholy. And I also find that sometimes I don’t finish some of them and have had to reach deep into my emotions to find out why. Part of it is that once it is finished…it is over. And I hate when good things end. Which adds to your post about trying to recreate and experience the good times/things. I have had to do some work on releasing these kinds of thoughts…and to move into energy where I believe there will be so many more good times and things to experience. It’s not always easy…and I won’t lie…sometimes I just want to be a kid and rise early with excitement and see the tree all lit up shining off the wall and beautiful presents glistening under the tree!!
    I hope all is well, Ann, and that this new year is filled with good things for you and your family ❤

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