Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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I have no doubt that every child who went to elementary school during the 1970’s experienced the same trauma I did. Fortunately, I only experienced it once – or at least I only remember one incident. There may have been more, but none has stuck with me like the one that occurred that day in second grade.

I remember feeling completely lost and alone as I sat on the curb waiting for a mom who hadn’t arrived.

I don’t remember why I had stayed after school. I just remember that I did and was quite excited to do so. Bon the curback in those days, afterschool activities weren’t the norm for the under ten crowd. We had music lessons and 4-H and Scouts, but none of those activities were associated with school and there was no such thing as afterchool care.

Whatever the reason my friends and I had stayed late, it must have been  a special occasion. I still remember chatting with my friends as we stood on the sidewalk by the playground fence waiting for our moms to pick us up. (In those days, the moms were always the ones who picked up the kids.)

As other moms began to drive up to the curb and my friends climbed into their cars (usually into the front seat, generally without seat belts and always with absolutely no concept of contraptions called car seats), our group got smaller and smaller and smaller.

Eventually, I was the only one still standing on the sidewalk until I tired of that and sat on the curb.

I know anyone born after 1980 is wondering where the adult supervision and teachers were. My answer is “I don’t know.”

Back in those days, vigilance didn’t exist like it does today, and teachers usually went home when the students did. There was a sense of trust in the parents and a sense of safety in daylight – especially in small towns. There was also a belief that situations usually worked themselves out.

Except when they didn’t.

As the sun started making its journey behind the Juniper-covered hills that surrounded the town in which I lived, I sat on the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a teacher who had stayed late happened upon me as she walked to her car. She didn’t, however, see the same gravity in the situation that I did.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You look as though you lost your best friend.”

I remember contemplating her words. My good friends had all left me, but I didn’t think I’d actually lost them. But I didn’t share those thoughts. Instead, I told her I was waiting for my mom.

“Oh, I know your mom,” the teacher said. “I know she’ll be here soon.”

And she was right. My mom did arrive…eventually,

In those days before Google calendars and other electronic reminders, she had simply forgotten that she was supposed to pick me up at school. And, in those days before cell phones, answering machines and vigilant school personnel, I was powerless to remind her. Those things just happened to those of us who grew up in the 1970’s.

Mom may have told me why she didn’t worry when the bus arrived without me. Or she may have told me that she had a meeting and she thought she had babysitting duties covered. I don’t remember because her words never registered. I was too relieved and grateful that I wasn’t going to have to spend the night on the curb and wear the same clothes to school the next day.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago as a read a post that has been recycled through social media a few times. It is a reminder of what would now be considered parenting fails but  were acceptable when I was young. And my generation survived anyway.

We didn’t wear bike helmets (although I do remember the humiliation of swimming caps). We played outside with no supervision (unless you count our dogs which all ran free without any type of fence – even electric.) And we weren’t electronically connected to everyone we knew.

If we were out of our parents sight, they never knew where we were, if we were safe or when we would actually arrive home.

I can’t imagine being a parent during that time period, and I give my parents kudos for being so strong.

Apparently, I am much weaker.

Both of my children have cell phones with which they use to constantly communicate with me.

I know if their plans have changed and they are going home with a friend after school. And when they text me such information, I can immediately text the friend’s parents to confirm.

I know when the band bus is running late or early, so I can arrive at the school in a timely manner. I don’t have to sit in a parking lot for hours waiting for a bus to arrive and imagining all that could possibly have gone wrong.

And I know that the school has my cell phone number so I don’t have to be sitting at my office desk to get a notice that my child is sick or is in detention (yes I have experienced that parental fail.)

Those of us who had the true 1970’s childhood experience may laugh at how much we protect our children these days, but deep in our hearts, we are also extremely grateful. Changes in technology and society ensure that our children will never be sitting alone on a curb waiting for a ride home.

And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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Of my many flaws, believing that I only have a few isn’t one of them.

On the flip side, I’m very, very good finding fault in almost everything I do.

It’s a trait that I come by honestly – it was passed down by the maternal side of my family, but I’m not sure whether its longevity is linked more to nature or nurture. While my mother and grandmother excelled at identifying their own weaknesses, they were less successful at keeping those discoveries to themselves.

I am cursed by these same behaviors.

As a little girl, I  grew up hearing my mother talk about her mistakes, missteps and misfortunes. When I became a teenager, she no longer had to point them out because I did an outstanding job of doing that for her.  Now, I just point out my own.

And even though I’m well aware of the warnings from psychologists and child development experts that we can damage our children when we speak poorly of ourselves, I do it anyway.

And yes, my children picked up on my behavior. What they haven’t done is repeat it. Perhaps their father’s side of the family is more dominant than mine, because they haven’t even taken my concerns about my inadequacies very seriously.

Instead, they’ve turned them into a running joke

When I started saying “I’m a horrible mom,” to note that I had experienced a parenting fail, they quickly picked up on the phrase.

When I expressed dismay or worry about a decision, one of them would say “Hash Tag Horrible Mom.” They found it so amusing that they began using it as the punctuation mark to most of my sentences – almost as a sign of affection.

And while I may suffer from an intense need to openly identify all my faults, I don’t lack a sense of humor.

That means I can not only appreciate how ridiculous I can be, I can also have fun.

And so it was last Sunday night when my daughter and her BFF were trying to complete a display for their social studies fair project. I tried to assist as needed, but I was actually contributing to the silliness as much, if not more, than they were.

I was attempting to restore some order to the overly loud and raucous high -jinks, when my daughter  played the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.” Kendall knows none of us can be serious when that song plays – especially since her brother shared Matt Mulholland’s  You Tube video “My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight.”  (My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight)

As soon as the first sorrowful notes began to play, I stopped in mid reprimand to launch into song – complete with overly dramatic arm gestures and facial expressions. The girls joined in, and the social studies project was forgotten.

At least, it was forgotten until my husband marched into the family room to complain about the noise level, of which I was a primary contributor.

When he left the room, I muttered “what a grumpy dad” under my breath.

The girls picked up on my words immediately. “Hash Tag Horrible Mom Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” they said. The line has stuck.

Ironically, I no longer consider their words to be a reminder of our faults.

Instead, they are a reminder that, even though we may do many things wrong, my husband and I have obviously done just as many things right.

We encourage our children to pursue their passions. We help with school projects.  And, perhaps most important, we have a home that promotes creativity and freedom of expression (within reason of course).

If the worst my children can say about us is “Hash Tag Horrible Mom and Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” then I maybe I should start ending my sentences with “#notsohorribleofamomafterall.”

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Pink Lady and the Microfilm Machine

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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I am a more than three decades older than my daughter, and she reminds me of that on a daily basis.

She doesn’t actually say anything to me. She’s simply 13 and in the eighth grade while I am quickly closing in on a half century.

She can watch her favorite television series on Netflix. When I was her age, only very lucky kids, of which I was not one, had VCRs. If I missed an episode of my favorite show, I had to wait for a re-run and hope that my brother didn’t want to watch something that same night.

She has her own cell phone that tracks everyone who calls her (although she gets many more text messages than actual phone calls). When I was her age, my family had one land-line phone and no one had answering machines.  If we missed a call, we just missed a call.

She literally has a world of information at her fingertips, whether on her phone, a tablet or computer. When I was her age, I had no options but to go to the public library when I wanted to do research.

But sometimes, even in these high-tech days, 13-year-old girls still need to go to the public library to do research.

Such was the case this past weekend when I took Kendall and Bri, her BFF (best friend forever) to the local public library. They are doing their social studies fair project on the history of a local theater where they love to perform. During their interview with a long-time volunteer and default historian (an interview Bri recorded on her iphone instead of on a pad of paper or on a tape recorder), he gave them a list of resources in old newspapers dating back to 1912 that they could probably research at the local library.

That’s the reason I found myself giggling with two 13-year-old girls on a rainy Saturday afternoon as we browsed reels of microfilm from newspapers published more than a century before.

The content was both microfilmamusing and educational.

There was an three-column story about a “well-respected colored man” who had died after eating a large meal. The article described his last few minutes right down to the moment when he raised his hands above his head and proclaimed “Lord have mercy” before he collapsed.

There was a story about a “musical mule” that ate the keys off a piano.

And there were many, many articles about the day-to-day happenings of local residents who had gone on vacation, visited relatives or held parties. There was even an article about my daughter’s great-grandfather.

As we used the rather antiquated technology of microfilm to take a trip back in time, Kendall and Bri snapped photo after photo on their iphones as they giggled and sent text messages. I couldn’t help but note the paradox.

Then, a brief note about a lady dressed in pink who made male hearts flutter sent all of us into peals of laughter.the pink lady

When I finally caught my breath, I asked “Why would this be in the newspaper?”

Bri didn’t miss a beat.

“How is our news today any better? One-hundred years from now, people are going to laugh at us because we had headlines about Miley Cyrus twerking.”

She had a point – a really good point actually. And her words helped make our time together at the microfilm machine even more meaningful.

We left the library that afternoon with much more than a few pieces of copy paper for a social studies project. We left with a mutual understanding about life.

Times change. Attitudes change. Styles change. Even people change.

But the distance between generation shrinks when we realize our shared experiences, which we may document with different technology and with different language,  greatly outweigh our differences.

The pink lady – and the local public library – taught me that.

Time Warp

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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Tradition demands that every new year, I take time to reminisce about the past 365 days and  look forward to the next 365 days.2015

And so I do.

But what tradition seems to forget is that the older I get, the more quickly the years fly by and lose their distinct identities.

Instead, they blend together into a colorful yet unfinished collage of meaningful, embarrassing, sad, silly, joyful and hopeful moments that comprise my personal history and therefore, whom I am.

Only years of significant life events maintain their autonomy: the year I graduated from high school, the year I got married and the years my children were born are all still etched in my brain. Everything else is marked by “before” and “after.” If  I didn’t have those markers, I think I would lose track of time completely.

Just this past week, I found a wedding invitation from 2010 that caught me completely off guard. I was sure the wedding had been, at most, two years ago. I clearly remembered what I wore, the conversations my husband and friends had and the emotions of the day.  Yet, in my memory, my daughter had been older, I had been younger and the event had much more recent.

After convincing myself that my internal calendar can no longer be relied upon, I also realized how unimportant that really is.

The event itself and the memories it generated are what are truly important. The wedding was memorable and holds a special place in the patchwork of moments that comprise my life.

My children are now starting into that phase when they will be defining their own significant years. In approximately 365 days, as the calendar turns to 2016, my son will be celebrating the year he graduates from high school. I have no doubt that will also be a year that marks “before” and “after” for me as well.

But, unlike the years before I had children, I will now appreciate and celebrate the small and big moments during that year, not that date itself. Moments, not a four digit number, are what define me, my family and my life.

The four digit number just provides that reminder.

Happy 2015. May it be full of memorable moments that make you smile, laugh and treasure your life, those you love and the joy of living.

A Baby Changes Everything

Friday, December 26, 2014
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The lights were dimmed; the house was quiet. The presents were opened, the turkey carved, the cookies eaten. We were home after a long and joyous day of Christmas festivities. As I slowly rocked AJ to sleep, I started singing one last Christmas carol. “A Baby Changes Everything” (Faith Hill) was the song I couldn’t get out of my head.

Last Christmas, I was newly pregnant and even though I had been dreaming and hoping for a baby, I was scared. I took a new interest in the Christmas story, for now I was looking at it from Mary’s point of view. How scared she must have been! I drew courage from her courage. I knew my life would change, but I didn’t know how it would change.

A baby does change everything. This Christmas season was unlike any I’ve had before. It started out extra hectic. Holiday traditions like decorating the home and baking mass quantities of cookies are a tad more difficult with a baby around; and I’m sure almost impossible with a toddler. Shopping with a stroller takes serious skills, skills I do not yet have, and so this season I quickly gained a new appreciation for online shopping.

Our Christmas Eve was different too. No late night parties or midnight church service for us this year. We spent our evening watching It’s A Wonderful Life, and I was so exhausted I didn’t even make it to the end of the movie.

Christmas Day was spent as usual with our families (we are lucky to have both sets of grandparents close). As expected, most of the gifts we received were for AJ and not for Chris or me. Baby clothes replaced adult clothes; toys replaced gadgets. And that was exactly how I wanted it to be.

This Christmas, we started forging new traditions, traditions that include the newest member of our family and our greatest gift yet. As I put AJ in her crib and said goodnight, I thought about how I will experience the wonder of Christmas through her eyes in the years to come. We still have a few Christmases to go before AJ can appreciate the magic and excitement of it all, but I’m already looking forward to how different every Christmas will be as she grows year to year. A baby changes everything, in wonderful and unexpected ways.

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

This Too Shall Pass

Friday, December 12, 2014
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“This too shall pass” – a well-known adage and my new life motto.

The saying is often used when referring to a hardship or struggle, but its true meaning is twofold, and that’s how I use it. I say it to myself when I’m having a rough day or when AJ is going through a phase that is hard on mommy, and I use it as a reminder that the good times will pass just as quickly as the hard times.

When AJ was a newborn and we couldn’t stop her cries, I told myself, “This too shall pass,” and it did.

When I was dealing with the baby blues and hormones that come after having a baby, I knew it would pass. It did.

This week, we had one glorious full night of sleep, followed by four nights of not-so-good sleep. This too shall pass.

The toothless smile, the surprise on her face when she makes a new noise for the first time, those will pass too.

The good and the bad that comes with raising a baby, it all goes by too quickly. At lunch this week, some of my coworkers were talking about being baseball coaches, serving on school committees, carpooling kids and traveling for extracurricular activities. Before I know it, those days will be upon us. The days of AJ being a baby will pass and she will grow.

I know AJ is only four months old, but as we approach our first Christmas, I’m feeling the passage of time oh so strongly. This time last year, I had just found out I was expecting. It felt like forever until I would spend Christmas with my baby, and yet here we are, and I feel like I barely blinked.

We aren’t able to fast-forward through the rough parts and press “pause” on the easy parts. And for good reason; the hard times make us appreciate the good and the two are often intertwined. When I’m up at 4 a.m. feeding AJ, I get to see her sweet face and hold her tiny body. She won’t stay tiny for long and she won’t be eating at 4 a.m. forever.

This too shall pass – a silent prayer of strength, and a constant reminder to enjoy this time as much as possible.

The Naked Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now. Well, it’s not completely naked. A  few lights  are strung around its fragrant limbs, but the lights aren’t on so the tree looks much the same as it did on a hilly farm only days agochristmas tree

My family hasn’t had time to decorate. We barely even found the time together to get the tree. Our days of leisurely trips to the tree farm are long gone. Choosing the tree has become a mission that must be executed with precision to insure we all make our next appointment or activity.

Every time I pass by the living room, the naked tree serves as a reminder of life as it is today: more things to do than we have time to do, the energy and opportunity to do them and an appreciation that the fullness of each and every day.

The unpacked brown cardboard boxes and plastic crates that surround the tree serve as reminders of life as it once was. Most of our holidays decorations and ornaments represent a person, an event, a pet, an interest or a special occasion. Collectively, they  have written the history of my family’s life. Almost every object has a story that we read each December, put in a place of honor then pack away for eleven months only to be taken out the next year and read again.

Our new kitten Artemis, who adopted us a couple of months ago, serves as a reminder that life will be different in the years to come.  In fewer than 24 months, Artemis will be a full-grown cat who may or may not be jumping at the limbs of the Christmas tree and poking her pink nose into the boxes of decorations. My son will be in college and may or may not be participating in the family’s annual pilgrimage to get the tree. And I’ll be older and  shaped by circumstances I can’t even begin to predict today.

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now, but it won’t remain naked much longer. Soon, it will be decorated, glowing and the center of celebration. After the presents are opened, the cookies eaten and the holiday meals enjoyed, it will stand in my living room for a few more days, but it won’t receive the attention it once did. If history holds true, we will forget to water the tree, and the needles will dry up and start to fall out.

By New’s Year Day, the ornaments will once again be packed up, the tree will be dragged to the curb and the needles will be vacuumed. All that will remain of this year’s Christmas tree will be photos, a few ornaments and the memories attached to both.

Time marches on, and change is a constant. We can’t hold on to the past, and we shouldn’t try. But we can hold on to traditions. They are the architects of memories and the link between the past and the future. They can also be found anywhere we can find family – even in a naked Christmas tree.

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.

Spending Time

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
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Like many Americans, I looked forward to an extra hour of sleep last Sunday morning.

That’s not to say I like the practice of changing clocks twice a year.steve jobs

The extra hour of sleep wasn’t actually an extra hour in my life. It was simply a debt that had to be repaid for the hour taken from me this past spring. And I resent that lost hour, especially since I’m never been able to find enough hours in the day,

I think I inherited that trait from my mother.

We both feel better about ourselves when we are being productive. Because of that, we often put too much on our plates.

We just load those plates with very different items.

When I was very young, my family lived in a tiny house on an Indian Reservation near other families with fathers who also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. My mom, who has always taken great pride in ensuring that no speck of dirt survives more than a week in her house, was burdened with two small children who thought life should be messy and did their best to live up to their beliefs. Mom would spend the day busy cleaning, cooking and doing chores. When my father would arrive home, she would ask him how other women got their chores completed early enough to play cards and socialize while she never seemed to get ahead.

Dad never had the nerve to say that my mom could play cards and socialize if she  really wanted to do so. She was choosing to use her time in a different way.

I can’t imagine spending so  much time doing housework.  Just as my mother didn’t have time to play cards with the neighbors, I don’t have time to clean my house. I tend to spend too many hours at the office and doing volunteer work and writing and walking my dog (which I try to pretend is a chore.) The reality is, like my mother, even though I complain about never having as much time to relax as other people, I’m actually quite happy being busy.

But I still need to ensure I’m not so busy that I’m wasting time.

Time, like any other precious resource, has to be budgeted.

When I was  in graduate school and working full time, I thought I didn’t have any time. I couldn’t let go of my need to ensure every paper I wrote was perfect and that I aced every test. I couldn’t understand how some of my classmates, who were also working full time but also had children, were only concerned about getting by. I never wanted to “just get by.” I wanted to be perfect.

My last year of graduate school, I got pregnant with my son, gave birth in April and graduated in May. When I graduated, I had as much pride in putting the letters MOM behind my name as I had in putting the letters MSW there.

Nine months of pregnancy during the most demanding time of my life taught me that no one can do everything perfectly. The more thinly we spread ourselves, the fewer things were are capable of doing well.

No one has unlimited time, and how we spend it speaks as much or more to our character as how we spend our paychecks.

I was thinking a great deal about how I spend my time this past weekend – not just because of the “extra” hour but because senior night was celebrated during the last home football game at my son’s high school. As parents proudly escorted the senior football players and band members onto the field while the announcer talked about each student, my eyes welled with tears.

Next year, I’ll be escorting my son onto the field, and I’m already wondering how the time went by so quickly. I’m wishing I had more and worrying whether I spent the time I had as his parent wisely.

But for the moment, all I can do is treasure every moment and remember that time, unlike money, can’t be saved. It can, however, be wasted or spent wisely.

I simply hope that years from now I’ll look back at this time and pride myself in making some very good investments.