In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a special memory—and there are so many as a parent! I also cherish moments from long ago. I love some of the most basic but reliable holiday traditions from my childhood and continue them as a parent myself, like wrapping eight small to medium Channukkah gifts for my kids and letting them choose one each night of that week after lighting candles. I’m sure other families do that too, but I can still picture them as a child under the buffet table behind the living room sofa…

Sometimes though, memories that come up during the holidays have little to do with the holiday itself

This morning, I happened to pull out the oldest mug we have in our cabinet. As I drank my coffee, I was transported back in time. Not by the smell of the coffee, but by the memories of that mug in another time in my life. It’s the last mug I have from a collection that used to belong to my grandparents. It’s not an interesting shape, doesn’t have a beautiful design, but it’s also not your ordinary coffee mug. It holds years and years of memories.

All through breakfast, I was flooded with visions of drinking from that mug, or another like it from the set, while my grandma was baking or chatting with my grandpa. I was brought back to their kitchen in Rochester, where I spent so much time growing up and their kitchen in Miami where I could just fit at the little table that always held a bowl of fresh oranges and grapefruits. For a moment, I was on their terrace looking way out at the ocean and soaking in the Miami morning sunshine.

Yesterday after school, my younger son pulled out a bowl to hold his snack and it happened to be the little plastic one with Winnie-the-Pooh on it. I was standing in the kitchen with him and was briefly transported back to the day we bought it: I can still remember his excitement the first time he used it. I wonder if he chooses it consciously for his snacks these days, if that little boy inside the big teenager standing near me is the one pulling down that bowl—his childhood treasure.

When I was pregnant and my kids were very young, I kept a journal. I tracked how I felt emotionally and physically, if they moved, their first time smiling and rolling over, our familiy outings, their first signs, spoken words and so much more. I wish I hadn’t stopped writing in those little books, but I guess I could always start again.

I encourage all parents to note the moments, big and small: we have so many memories to hold in our hearts and there are still so many yet to create. And sometimes, all you have to do is just open your kitchen cabinet to discover and relive those special family memories again.