Age 4: checking out the bathroom faucet handles of our new house in Ohio.
Sometime before that: putting together a puzzle on the floor at the babysitter’s house and taking a nap in her son’s bed; the candy in the principal’s desk drawer at the school where Mom taught; not a single thing about our own home in Illinois.
Sometime after that: Tuna fish sandwiches and red Kool Aid … spilled on the olive green carpeting … at the new babysitter’s house in Ohio. Nearly everything about the playroom (and the whole house, for that matter) of that same babysitter’s house.
Hiding in closets, snooping in my sister’s stuff, reading on the floor by my bedroom door — using the light from down the hall as it peeked through the crack. Going to wait at the corner for my grandparents to arrive from Michigan. Setting the table. Little Debbies in the middle drawer. Pepsi (and Tab) in glass bottles in the garage. Summer days … housework, swimming at the quarry in Bettsville, reading on my bed until dinner. The smell of clean sheets and the silky on my blanket.
I was originally going to write about my lack of childhood memories. I feel like I don’t have many … until I start writing them! My brain is coming undone just remembering.
My mom’s 75th birthday was this week and my sister and I had the pleasure of traveling with her to Michigan. We had breakfast together before heading across the border, then explored Monroe, where Mom’s relatives had lived (she showed us their houses — she could even remember house numbers and street names!). We saw a monument with the names of Dad’s relatives who had come from France to Canada, then south to settle Michigan.
We explored the cemetery where Mom’s relatives are buried, taking pictures of headstones and listening to her stories.
I had to carry a pad of paper and take notes … she remembers everything! She told story after story! She remembers names and dates and addresses and who she was with and what they did. She knows who married whom and can even tell the stories from her in-laws’ families.
From Monroe, we traveled “the scenic route” (remembering Dad) from Monroe to Adrian. She had memories from there too. “Ooh, we did a lot of partying in this town!” “This is where Aunt Alice (Ford Collins) taught me to play euchre.” She made me laugh.
We had lunch at The Governor Croswell Tea Room in Adrian, then an unexpected tour of the Croswell Theater next door. Yet another memory: my grandmother (her mother-in-law) played her violin there at one point. (How does she know this stuff?!?)
All of this makes me wonder what my own children will remember from their childhoods. What I’m lacking from my own are the memories I want to have. I can’t remember my mother reading to me, although I’m sure she did. I don’t ever remember cuddling up with her. I don’t remember being tucked in. I can’t remember her teaching me to write my name or holding my hand to cross a street.
Why do I hang onto these memories that I don’t have?!? I don’t remember feeling this way until more recently as I’ve listened to hers.
Maybe I fear that the effort I put into my parenting won’t be remembered by my children. Maybe I’m afraid they won’t have those memories of me either.
Maybe I’m afraid that I used to have these memories but forgot them, and might forget more? Maybe I’m afraid I didn’t understand the importance of “remembering” until now, and now it’s too late to remember those kinds of memories.
I’m not going to over-analyze this. I don’t know what this is all about and I’m just going to leave it at that … because … #1 – I can’t change it. And #2 – I have today’s memories.
From yesterday’s trip, I will remember: holding mom’s hand (“while you still know who I am”) as we strolled in St. Joseph’s Cemetery; the story of the pine tree that’s now carved into a replica of St. Joseph; the taste of the artichoke from their quiche; dancing with my sister on stage at The Croswell Theater; and … of all things, the story of the dogwood tree.
This woman filled with family history and so many memories also has the uncanny ability to remember other random stuff as well. As we drove through town, I asked what kind of trees we were seeing. She thought they were dogwoods, and proceeded to tell us the Legend of the Dogwood Tree. She couldn’t remember how she knew it, but it was the first time I had heard it. I can’t remember her reading to me as a child, but I’ll always remember her telling me this story as an adult.
Proverbs 31:26 – She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is always on her tongue.
I imagine that 20 years from now, when we celebrate her 95th, the memories from yesterday will mean more to me than anything from my childhood. Such wonderful memories I will have of my mom, and they’ll always be triggered now by the sight of a dogwood tree.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, you can follow this link for one version: http://faithjourneybiblestudies.com/be-sharing-2/inspirational-stories-for-your-journey/legend-of-the-dogwood-tree/
Please share in the comment section: Do you fear memory loss? What is one memory from your childhood that you cherish? What is one thing you’ll always remember about your mother?
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you.
~ Courageous Jane