Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Decision Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked  up thedr-seuss-memory-quote spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before  putting it down.

I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.

Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.

dr seussNow, 30 years later, that former teenage girl is fielding questions about what her son wants to do with the rest of his life, and I’m having a tough time believing that he can possibly know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.

In my world, that just doesn’t happen.

In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure.  And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.

But I realize that’s in my world.

In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.

Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.

But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself.  And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.places-ypu-will-go-quote

I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.

According to her journal, she does.


The Wrong Question

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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When I was six, I got my first glimpse at how misguided and even harmful some adults can be.

I already thought my teacher was mean (a belief I still hold today), but I never realized  that she didn’t believe in encouraging her students to develop their own dreams and aspirations.

I figured that out the day Mrs. Gladwill handed each student in her first grade class a large piece of paper with space to draw a picture at the top with lines underneath. She instructed us to draw a picture and write a couple of sentences in answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I soon realized that Mrs. Gladwill cared as much about our answers as she would about a random stranger’s response to the question “how are you?” In other words, she didn’t really care at all.

But even as a first grader, I was a bit of an overachiever. I wanted to impress Mrs. Gladwill with my plans to be a trapeze artist. No matter that I was completely uncoordinated and afraid of taking risks, I was going for glamour.

My first grade brain never equated a career, or even a job, with skills, aptitudes and passions that could make the world a better place. All I understood was a job defined you for life. Why else would adults always be asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I wanted to be glamorous and admired. The problem was, I didn’t know how to spell trapeze. When I asked Mrs. Gladwill, her only advice was to look it up in the “book of jobs” she had provided us.

Needless to say, trapeze artist wasn’t listed.

So I had to ask Mrs. Gladwill again.

Instead of just spelling trapeze or suggesting I think about other possibilities, she told me I should be something “normal” like  a nurse.

I had no desire to be nurse, but I recognized the authority she had. So, I reluctantly looked up nurse in the career book and wrote about how I wanted to be one. Thus ended my aspirations of being a trapeze artist.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of this incident when my son, a sophomore in high school, brought home his ACT Score report. One side provided his test scores and the recommendation he go to a four-year university. The back side was a complicated graph intended to help him make a career choice. I have a Master’s degree, and I didn’t understand how the “world of work” map could be helpful. And it, like Mrs. Gladwill and so many other adults, asked the wrong question: “what do you want to be?”pablo picasso

Every person already “is.” The question adults should be asking children, adolescents, young adults and even each other is “what are your gifts and how do you plan to share them with others?” That, according to  a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, is the meaning of life.

If Mrs. Gladwill had asked me about my gifts in first grade, I probably would have told her “my imagination and telling stories.”  Neither lended themselves to being a trapeze artist nor a nurse. They didn’t really point to a career as a social worker either, but I would discover new gifts as I matured.

To  me, helping young people discover their gifts is entirely more useful than the “world of work” map my son was handed. And watching them unwrap and use those gifts is actually a gift for all of us.

The Day I Ate Dog Food

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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dogfoodWhen I was four years old, my brother Sean and his friend Gusty convinced me to eat dog food.

The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.

Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.

I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.

I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.

I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.

Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.

“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.

I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”

That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.

That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching  me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.

It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew  in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.

I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view  the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.

We named the dog Gusty.

It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.

My Embarrassing Husband (and Truths about Marriage)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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giles and treeHere’s a truth about marriage that no one ever tells you: the most difficult part about marriage isn’t compromise. The most difficult part is learning to bite your tongue and not make fun of your spouse’s idiosyncrasies.

By the time you’ve been married as long as I have, the challenge becomes next to impossible. The only thing that keeps me sharing more  is the realization that I have even more idiosyncrasies than Giles does. Although, for the record, our  children both voted their dad as the more embarrassing of their two parents. Also for the record, that’s probably because their dad goes out of his way to embarrass them. I’m embarrassing without even trying.

But this past weekend, my husband wasn’t trying to embarrass anyone. He was just being over protective of our Christmas tree, which, in turn, was really embarrassing for the rest of us.

Every year, our family goes to a local Christmas tree farm to hunt down the perfect tree. And every year, we pick one that is too tall and requires a great deal of trimming down before it actually fits in our living room.

But not this year.

This year, all four of us went out of our way to find a short tree that would fit in our living room with no problem.

The selection didn’t take long, nor did cutting it down, hauling it back to be bailed and paying for it.

Getting it secured on top of the Jeep lasted so long that at least five other families went through the entire process while the kids and I waited and waited and waited. We waited so long that Giles became an embarrassment as he continued to pull ropes and check the ties on our smaller than normal tree.

The guys who drive the ATVs that haul the trees watched him. The other families watched him. Even the tree farm mutt, Molly, watched him.

But Giles continued to tie ropes, pull on them then tie more knots.

To be fair, I understand my husband’s concern.

Years ago, we were driving down a Virginia highway when the Christmas tree on top of the vehicle in front of us fell off, bounced across the highway and was left on the side of the road. The vehicle in front of us kept going at full speed as though nothing had happened.

Since no one was hurt in the incident, I was amused.

My husband, on the other hand, was apparently traumatized.

To this day, he lives in fear that our Christmas tree will fall off the roof of the Jeep.

“Going to get the family Christmas tree is a tradition,” I recently told a co-worker. “And the most important part  is waiting for Giles to secure the tree. That’s followed by his taking side roads because he’s afraid the tree will fall off if we go too fast on a major highway. We also have to stop at least twice to check if the tree is secure.”

This year, Giles broke with tradition. He only stopped once to check that  the tree was still secure. But then, it was a much smaller tree than we normally get and therefore only required one stop.

At some point, Giles must have realized how ridiculous he was being, but that was only after he was absolutely convinced that the tree was secure enough for transport. He looked at me and said, “You know, this tree is small enough we probably could have put it in the back of the Jeep and let the kids deal with some branches in their face.”

I agreed, but I also knew that putting the tree on top of the Jeep is as important to Giles as putting the star on top of the tree is for my daughter.

Sometimes, you just have to carry on the tradition.

Which leads me to another truth about marriage that no one ever tells you: the best memories aren’t the romantic ones. The best memories are the ones that highlight our idiosyncrasies, because those are the ones that make each family unique. And those are also the ones that bond us together as a true family.

Trick or treat, smell my feet

Monday, October 14, 2013
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Halloween 2008

With my bee and lamb, when times were easier.

Some time ago, students didn’t leave their sheltering elementary schools for the exploration of junior high until seventh grade. Kids were usually 12 years of age by September, learning combinations to lockers and lugging rented instruments to last period band class.  I remember those liberating days at Horace Mann in Kanawha City — a school that looked like a college campus and felt like a new world.

But while I was off being a grown up, I missed the decision to move sixth graders to a scary place called middle school.  And now that I’m a parent of a daughter on the verge of changing schools, this graduation has wiped out everything I thought I knew about advanced childhood. Since she’s going to this scary place called middle school at age 11, I’m going to be forced to loosen my protective grip.  This frightens me.

I’ve spent the last few months of parenting telling Ava “NO” to cell phones, social networking, cosmetics and high heel shoes.  “No, you can’t have that/do that/wear that/say that,” I lecture.  “It’s too soon.”

Yet, what is age appropriate behavior for a tween? For instance…

  • Do middle school girls, age 11, still play with American Girl dolls?
  • Do they still visit the cartoon parks at Walt Disney World?
  • Do they continue to shop at Justice or Crazy 8 (if sizes go up to age 12)?
  • Do they still have to sit in the backseat of a car, or can they call shotgun?
  • Do they ride scooters or bikes? If so, where do they do this? At the park or in the street?

Because of these uncertainties, I’ve changed the wording of my standard question.  Instead of Don’t you think it’s a little early for that? — I find myself asking Don’t you think you’re getting a little old for that?

Meaning, do middle school kids go trick or treating on Halloween? If not, this will be Ava’s last parade around the block.

Aha.  All Hallows’ Eve.  This weekend, I got up before the sun to read the latest issue of Southern Living in peace and quiet. I found myself locked in Allison Glock’s family column.  This month, she writes about preserving modesty in the modern era of Halloween. The horror isn’t in the section of the store dedicated to Walking Dead garb.  The real scare comes in the form of “Twerkin’ Teddy”, “Bad Habit Nun” and “Skeleton Catsuit”.  Yes, these costumes are made in youth sizes.

I cherished Ava’s first Halloween.  She was a baby sunflower from the Anne Geddes collection.  The next year, she was Thumper the rabbit, then a bumblebee, and the following year, she was “JoJo” the circus clown.  When she turned four, she made a darling Tinkerbell, and when she went to kindergarten, she was a fancy cheetah. After that, she became a cupcake, then a Crayola crayon, and then a 1950′s girl. Last fall, she transformed into a WVU cheerleader.

Ava and I were on the same team for a decade.  This season, however, we’re rivals.

It all started when Ava asked if she could dress as a One Direction fan.  Do we even need to buy a costume for that? She presented a wrinkled catalog.

“This, “ Ava announced, pointing to the girl in the picture.  “I want to wear what she has on.”

I leaned down to get a closer look.  BRITISH INVASION?!

Bloody hell no!

The Union Jack dress hit the juvenile model well above the knee.  It was a sleeveless sheath made from the thinnest material the manufacturers could get away with. Shower curtains are constructed of heavier fabric.

“I need the shoes, too,” she stated.  GOGO BOOTS?!

In my wicked little mind, I heard the theme song from Austin Powers.  YEAH, BABY, YEAH!

“No, Ava, no…” I whined.  “Find something else.  Here!” I pointed to another picture.  “How about this cute outfit?”

Ava screamed.  “A WATERMELON FAIRY?”

It’s different! It’s unique!

“All right…then we’ll all dress up,” I suggested.  “Maryn can be Scooby Doo, I’ll dress up as Velma, Daddy can be Fred, and you can be Daphne.”

On second thought, Fred wore an ascot. Mike would choke me with it.

“British, huh?” I pondered.  “The Beatles! We’ll go as the Fab Four! Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!” I squealed.  “But I get to be Paul.”

Ava was getting tired.

“Please, Mom,” she sighed.  “It’ll be fine.”

I slammed the catalog closed.  “Ok, but if you look even the slightest bit cheap, the costume will be returned.”

Ava shook hands on the terms of our agreement and waited by the mailbox at 4:00 p.m. for the next nine business days.  Unfortunately, the ensemble arrived.  She pulled the dress over her head and immediately reached for her knees.  It was…short. Mini-skirt short. Twiggy stood before me.

“No.  It’s too old for you.”

She protested.  “Please, Mom! Look! I’ll wear a tee-shirt under it.”

That was a slight improvement.

“And tights,” I added.  “With biking shorts on top of the tights.”

She flashed a smiled and pulled on the white boots with the stacked heel.


“Can I keep them, Mom?” she begged.  I looked at Ava and then down at Maryn.  My youngest daughter was wearing a witch’s hat and dusting the floor with a broom missing 90% of its bristles.

“What do you think?” I asked Maryn.  She peered into her crystal ball.

“She’s gonna get blisters and then Daddy’s gonna hafta carry her home,” she warned.  What a wise ol’ witch.

“All right.  You can keep them,” I told Ava.  “But you will not wear those boots outside of Halloween.”

“Didn’t you wear these boots when you were a majorette?” Ava asked, marching in place.

I answered too quickly.  “Sure, I did.  But I was in….”

“Junior high?”



Monday, September 16, 2013
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ekm painting

Elizabeth K. Meece (1963)

Good friends of ours recently moved into a new home.  Mike, the girls and I took a housewarming gift to them last weekend, in exchange for a much anticipated tour of the place.  It’s situated on a quiet cul-de-sac lined with oak trees and manicured lawns.  There are sweeping views of acres of green grasses that glisten in morning light.  It’s perfect for them, and for a while, I had house envy.

Perhaps it’s because my kitchen is nowhere close to being finished. But my patience is.

I love my house.  I do.  Our daughters love it and use every square inch for dance and play. So do our two destructive, demonic dogs. It’s where we’re supposed to be, with or without countertops and food disposals. Yet the work never ends.  Fences have to be repaired or rebuilt, air conditioners need new relay switches. Furnace filters are no longer available for the temperamental unit that warms our house with the smell of burnt dust in the winter.  The list goes on and on.  Well, make that Mike’s List goes on and on…

Then, there’s my aunt’s house, which is now our house since she passed away.  Six months ago, Mike and I vowed that we would enjoy this little fixer-upper-summer-project.  We decided over artisan beer and pizza that we’d rip up carpets to expose hardwood floors, scrape wallpaper and paint the surfaces a nice beige-gray color from Pottery Barn.  We’d landscape the sidewalks with English boxwoods and cut back wild bushes to reveal pretty stonework on the foundation.

Yeah, right.  I haven’t lifted one finger, other than to wipe tears off my face because I can’t stand to be in my aunt’s house. It’s as if I’ve had some type of delayed reaction to her death that makes it nearly impossible to be around her things.  I walk into the living room, spot one of her many watercolors soaking up dirt on the walls, and I walk right back out. There’s something about parting with her belongings that makes me feel like I’m getting rid of her memory.  But I don’t need another china cabinet. I don’t need two more bedroom suites or another chest of drawers from the 1950s.  I don’t want to haggle over them in an estate sale, either.

I’m just unsettled.

Houses are a funny thing.  They’re a burden of bricks and mortar, but a solid presence that stands for something much more than an address.  Whenever I look over at my aunt’s house, I feel like she’s close by.  She’s still here, even though I know she’s gone there. 

So now this house has become a monument that makes me feel both safe and sad.  It also makes me feel sick when the home owners insurance and tax bills are stuffed in the mailbox on the same day.  It makes me feel greedy to hold on to a piece of property that would make a wonderful starter home for a young family, or a retirement home for an elderly couple (or single).  It feels wasteful to continue paying utility companies to keep the life on in the house.  It also feels like I’m spoiled for having a second home to rely on when my kitchen is in shambles or the cooling system freezes. It feels immature to have a garage full of toys and hobbies, a space Mike has come to call his frat house.

Yet this cottage isn’t full of fond memories. This is the place associated with her illness. It’s the place that served as a type of assisted living with two caregivers located directly next door. When I do peek into the TV room, I see a new, leather lift chair that carried her from a sitting to a standing position three or four times.  I see the indentations on the carpet where the wheels of a hospice bed were stationed. I hear the clicking, ticking sound of an anniversary clock, an eerie reminder that she bought the house two years ago this week.

And because of these things, I’ve decided to sell.

No, dear readers and neighbors, I’m not ready to show the house.  But I’m ready to part with it.  I’m ready to let go of the weight that’s holding me back.  I need to remember that my aunt was a real estate agent and she bought houses as investments and sold them for profits. These structures were places to hang her hat, not her heart. During the brief moments that I’m feeling more confident, I imagine her saying, “Sell it, honey. Get what you can and get out from under all this trouble!”  I can also hear her chanting, “Never fear! Auntie’s near!” She would sing this line into the telephone whenever I called to complain of losing my way.

But now, I need to find my way back across the sidewalk into my home, where my family lives and loves. I need to see her place for exactly what it is: a ranch-style house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, situated on a large lot with access to leading schools and city conveniences.

It’s said that we can’t take any of this stuff with us when it’s our time to go, but I’m grateful that my artist auntie left more than a few paintings for me to hang on the walls of my TV room.  And when I glance at “The Old Homeplace,” I’ll have no fear.  Auntie’s near.





Tattered Flags

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Like many Americans, I can’t help but reflect on the events that shook our nation twelve years ago today, and like most adults, I remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking on September 11, 2001.tattered flag

My memories of the days that followed aren’t nearly as vivid, but I remember one thing very clearly: there were American flags everywhere.

They were flying on private homes. They adorned t-shirts and other articles of clothing. And they were fluttering on moving vehicles.

I found this fascinating. Not just because I’d never before seen American flags flying on automobiles as though they were paraphernalia for a sports team, but because the flags were so easily damaged, which seemed to defeat the purpose of flying them.

As a Girl Scout, I was taught all the rules about how to handle and treat a flag. As a young adult, I followed the national debate over the issue of defacing and even burning flags as a sign of protest.

And yet, in the days and months immediately following September 11, 2001, people were damaging their flags in the name of patriotism.

At the time, I wasn’t particularly upset by this phenomena; I simply found it interesting.

But now, twelve years later, the tattered flags represent something much greater to me: while America initially came together after 9 11, we’ve since been tearing apart – kind of like those flags waving on the cars.

I think that’s because some people equate patriotism with pride, pride with winning and winning with defeating an enemy.

There have been and always will be plenty of enemies to our country, we don’t need to be creating them. But some people seem intent on doing so by pointing fingers at immigrants, people with different religious beliefs, people with different political ideas, people who are poor, etc.

The list goes on and on.

Each time fingers point, I hear the American flag rip a bit more.

That’s because our flag represents a country that was founded by immigrants. A country that welcomed people who didn’t have the same religious beliefs as the establishment. A country that encouraged diverse ways of thinking. A country that has a rich tradition of helping those who are down on their luck. Yet, we are attacking our own ideals and history.




On this twelfth  anniversary of September 11, I hope that people focus not only on all the lives that were lost on that horrible day but on how our subsequent actions illuminated the possibility of creating a brighter future for our children.

We recognized the power of coming together as a country to help each other.

We recognized how much we can accomplish when united rather than divided.

We recognized how we can use our diverse strengths to support each other rather than to tear each other down.

And we recognized what happens when we live can live up to ideals represented by our flag: a flag that may be a bit torn and ripped but still stands for a compassionate, caring and idealistic country.

At least that’s what I’m teaching my children.

I’m certainly hoping they have reason to believe me.

Royal Speculation

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
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As the world celebrated the birth of the new prince on Monday, I was flooded with memories of the summer of 1982.princess diana and prince charles

I was 15, spending extended time away from my family and enjoying the best time of my life.

That was also the summer Prince William was born.

I remember speculating with friends what the name of the new prince might be. I also remember thinking that Princess Diana was only six years older than me and she was already a mother. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around that fact.

I came from a family of what I now refer to as “late breeders.” My grandmother was in her thirties when she had my mother, and my mother was 28 when she had me. At the time, that was older than most of my friend’s parents. I was 31 when I had my son, my first child.

That’s the same age Kate and William are.

And as I watch the news about the birth of their first son, I can’t help but think how different their lives as new parents are from my life at that same age and same stage of life.

They don’t have to worry about having enough money to raise a child, having appropriate child care or ensuring their child has access to a good education.

And yet, I had so much they don’t have.

I had privacy. I had the opportunity to make mistakes without the scrutiny of the press. And I could give my child the option of choosing his own future.

Britain Royal BabyThey’ll never have any of those opportunities. Nor, apparently, will they have the opportunity to immediately share their child’s name.

Yesterday watching the news, my daughter asked, “How can they go through nine months and still not have a name?”

I tried to explain to her that, traditionally, the royal family doesn’t immediately name their babies, but she wasn’t impressed and simply had more questions. Since I’ve asked those same questions, I couldn’t provide an answer.

Instead, I thought about my own children.

My husband and I chose both of their names well before they were born, but we didn’t share them with anyone. We just didn’t want people wrinkling their nose or expressing their opinions.

With my son, we said we were debating between Fyvush Finkle and Deuteronomy but were leaning toward Deuteronomy because our son could go by the nickname “Dute,” a nod to my husband’s tendency to call everyone “dude.”

People were so surprised, they usually couldn’t manage a response, and I recommend the same strategy for William and Kate as they ponder the perfect name of their son.

I also recommend they enjoy every minute of being new parents as the time speeds by so quickly.

This summer, my son is now the 15-years old and also watching the world celebrate the birth of an heir to the British throne. He, like I did at 15, is also hearing the speculation about a name.

I can’t help but appreciate the synchronicity and the reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Things like babies and the joy of new parents.

Reviews and Coming Attractions

Monday, June 25, 2012
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"This will be a night to remember!" – Templeton the Rat

I don’t have many photographs of my mother.  In fact, I doubt Ava and Maryn could describe her face.  I have a picture of her on the day she was married — 1954 — and I have a picture of her at my own wedding. Only one.  She despised posing for pictures, primarily because she was desperately shy but also because she disliked her smile.  In the few prints I have of her holding me as a baby, she looks absolutely miserable.  For years, I thought she hated being a mother.  But now I know that she just hated her teeth.

Having so few pictures of her means that I don’t have many memories.  Today, my iPhone holds at least 1,000 blurred, grainy images of my children.  Since I’m the family photographer, I’m rarely in those shots.  But on occasion, I’ll hop in the frame and stand behind the girls (to hide my other “frame”), and show every tooth in my mouth. Gap and all.  I love being with my kids. I want them to see that joy.  I want them to remember it.

One evening, my husband and I were sitting outside listening to John Tesh’s radio show, “Intelligence for Your Life.”  We laughed through the corny anecdotes and bits of strategy, such as deleting a Facebook account when searching for a job, and working crossword puzzles to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.  The girls were in the yard swinging and chatting away, arguing briefly over the cutest band member of One Direction.

“Do you think they’ll remember any of this one day?” I asked Mike.  He shrugged his shoulders.

I admit that I get a little more nostalgic in the summer than any other time of the year — Christmas included.  I guess it’s because I spent every hour with my mother in those months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, doing nothing I might add.  Back then, I knew how to sit still and be quiet.  I knew how to be content with a do-nothing day.  It was a three-month rest for a child who didn’t need it.  But in that sabbatical of sorts, I didn’t form many memories.  One day rolled into the next.  I remember spending time at Greenbrier Pool and never applying sunscreen other than a mixture of baby oil and iodine.  I remember watching my parents can vegetables from the garden.  I remember watching soap operas at 3:00.  I remember our blue, 1979 Mercury stationwagon with wood panels.  I remember the old Holiday Inn sign that lit up in vibrant colors, which I had to see before I went to sleep each night of our annual vacation.   I remember my 10-speed bike, which logged many miles through the flat, tree-lined streets of Kanawha City.  That’s about it.  But is that enough?

Mike has similar memories.  ”You hopped on your bike at 9 in the morning, and you were gone all day,” he said.  ”If you were home before dinner, it was because you wrecked and needed a Band-Aid.”

That’s it?

“Little league baseball games,” he added. “We had to go to church once a month to play on the team.”

Nothing else?

“Oh, and I remember that we were at Ormond Beach, Florida when Elvis died,” Mike announced.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

The Pinterest-pinning, Facebook-posting, Twitter-tweeting mother in me wants a perfect summer for my girls that will be remembered as long as the mind can store it.  To do this, though, I find myself spending a small fortune on memory-making activities and props, such as a membership to our neighborhood pool (and its costly repairs), and a hammock for the side porch (which I’ve never been in longer than 5 minutes).   We’ve built swing sets and wooden forts, a pergola,  and we’ve added a couple of dogs.  This past week, we purchased an outdoor movie theater.  Well, sort of:  I bought a projector and a paint tarp.   These things,  along with a few strands of solar lights wrapped around a few oak trees, povide a cozy ambiance for summer’s children.  And mosquitos.

On Monday evening, we decided to watch “Charlotte’s Web” in the backyard. I made popcorn and carried it outside, along with bottles of water and boxes of M&Ms.  I picked up the popcorn that spilled onto the ground and chased off dogs that snatched the plastic bowls right out of the girls’ hands.  I sprayed each family member with enough OFF to give them lung cancer, and I tore down spider webs that belonged to less famous and less attractive arachnids so everyone would sit without worry or complaint.  I lit citronella candles and fussed at the girls to stop flipping their hair so close to the flames. I caught the Beagle and dragged him into his crate, where he howled along with the whining Wilbur.  I threw the tennis ball over the hill at least 100 times for the Golden Retriever, which I am convinced could find anything in the dead of night.  I answered the phone twice.  I had to go to the bathroom once.

But while I was reclined in my patio chair, I looked over at Maryn, parked in her daddy’s lap munching on candy and smiling at the sarcastic comments made by Templeton, the rat.  I looked over at Ava, legs crossed and straight-faced, twirling her hair as she pondered the messages left by Charlotte A. Cavatica.  For a few minutes, everything was as it should have been. Will the girls recall any of this when they’re older? I don’t know.  I hope I’m around to hear about it, though, particularly the parts that drove me up the wall, but made the others laugh.

As E.B. White so elegantly stated, “Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”


Memory keeper

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
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  I am not one of those art-and-craft kinda moms. Last year, I attempted to make cut-out Valentine hearts with my daughter. They looked more like circles. I can’t draw, cut, paste, glue, sew or even color in the lines.

  So scrapbooking is definitely out.

  But I really want to preserve our memories – mine and Julia’s. I know how fleeting they are, and I want to look back in 10 or 20 years and remember the little prayer we said each night and what her preschool backpack looked like. I want to remember funny little sayings, like when she thought her name was Julia Grapes Cherries instead of Julia Grace Cherry. Or see pictures of the cookies we baked or the artwork she made.

  These are the things that matter to me.  I am all about finding the joy in small moments. It comes from loving and losing someone to cancer. You learn what’s really important.

  So this year, I’m embarking on a little project that promises a simple way of doing this – without any scissors or glue! It’s called Project Life, and it was created by another mom who is an art-and-craft kinda mom but who also is a realist with three kids.

  Basically, the premise is to take a picture each day and do some journaling about it on cute little pre-designed cards that you tuck into a photo album with cute little pages with special pockets. I can totally do that! There’s even a digital version through Shutterfly if you’re like me and never get pictures developed anymore.

  At the end of the year, you have this fabulous book that tells your family’s story.

  Creator Becky Higgins’ motto is “cultivate a good life and record it.” I love that! She sends out lots of inspiration on her Facebook page for picture-of-the-day ideas. Things like a picture of your favorite way to start the day (coffee with French vanilla creamer), something your kid did that you would otherwise be upset about (I’m thinking of you Cara and your painted boy), your child’s handwriting (Julia’s 3s look like an E – I want to remember that!), what your floor looks like after a day of playing. Anyway, you get the picture.

  I wish had done this sooner. I would love to have a book for my daughter full of pictures and stories of her with her dad. She’s at the point where she doesn’t remember him on her own anymore. What I wouldn’t give for that…

  And actually, the memory system is flexible enough that you can design it any way you’d like. It doesn’t have to be a picture a day. It can be anything. Maybe some day I’ll be able to go back and make that book for Julia. In the meantime, I’m totally loving the little snapshots I’m taking and the notes I’ve been jotting down.

  Anyone else doing this? How do you record your memories?