Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Memory Attic

I have always written stuff down. I kept a journal for a lot of years, beginning with the melodramatic, pre-teen, angst-filled years of drama, followed by a slightly-toned-down version of similar events in high school, followed by a more-toned-down version of similar events in early adulthood. My romantic idea of the written word has always been that of preservation…remembering the events, feelings, je-ne-sais-quois moments that fill Life (yes, capital-L-Life). The mind and memory - the equivalent of a dusty attic filled with boxes and boxes of information, memories and blood types, crawling with the spiders of distraction and appointments and shoe sizes and social security numbers - is a wonderful and dangerous place…wonderful for what it is able to retain, dangerous for the wonderful moments you never want to lose, but eventually do through either age or the general quantity of stuff that a mind contains. So I’ve always been inclined to write things down so, if granted the gift of  age, I could revisit those things - those simple moments - that made my chest contract with feelings of awe or wonder or love, in the general chaos of life, in general. 

I’ve kept a journal for the kids since Grace was born (a decade!), jotting down various things…the trivial aspects of life that are likely to be forgotten. Like, “Grace, you had freakishly large feet at an incredibly early age.” Or “Nadia, you once ate three hot dogs at nine months old, in spite of the fact you didn’t have a single tooth in your mouth.” Or “Liam, you pronounced ‘hospital’ as “hoss-is-pital’ until you were long past the age of knowing how to pronounce ‘hospital.’” Or “Declan, it took me a full year to potty train you,” which is actually something I sincerely hope to forget one day. Perhaps a better example would be, “Declan, one time you fell asleep, with your blanket over your head, while driving the Jeep, and continuously went in circles until you eventually startled and woke up, while your mom and another spectator just sat giggling over how a kid could fall asleep while driving a Jeep. Remind me to show you the video evidence someday.” Yes, that’s a better example, for sure. 

Between yesterday and today, there were a million (okay, five) really great instances of memories-worth-preserving that justify why I write. Granted, three of five were steeped in toileting, disgustingness and general humiliation (in other words, typical moments in the life of a parent) that probably better aren’t shared (though I couldn’t help posting one episode on Facebook because, well…who doesn’t want to hear about the woman who didn’t know she was in a men’s room, despite the urinal? FYI, I blame Declan). But these are the moments to look back on and laugh at, the moments you want to remember, the moments to counter all those other moments of general-parenting-madness. 

The two of five instances that don’t involve disgustingness: Nadia came up to me with a detailed drawing of who-knows-what and said, verbatim, “When I’m bigger and know about more stuff, I’m going to build a gravity-take-away-er.” Then I realized the drawing was of people and things, devoid of gravity, floating around and having a great time. Everyone was shouting, “WHEEEE!!!!” She’s like Dr. Doofenschmirtz, but with an incredibly pure heart (if you are wondering who the heck this is, you clearly need to be tuning in to Phineas and Ferb).

The second episode was a moment that left me quiet, tears streaming, as I hid on the deck, not wanting to insert myself into a beautiful (if rare) dynamic. Nadia and Liam were outside on the monkey bars. Liam, who is completely capable of doing the monkey bars, has no idea that he is completely capable of doing the monkey bars. Nadia was giving him a pep talk, encouraging him in the kindest words possible, telling him that he could do it even though he didn’t know he could. She was full of patience, as he hemmed and hawed and worried, “What if I fall?” She was the perfect example of what a parent should be and I wished, in that moment, to be more like my eight-year-old, wondering where she got the amazing heart she has. Insert silent parental tears, choke, gasp… Then she rolled up his sagging pants, so he wouldn’t slip as he stood on the bars, and, eventually, after an incredibly long time (exuding patience I JUST. DON’T. HAVE), Liam did it….just as we knew he could. I was so proud of both of them….I felt like the Grinch, that my heart grew three times (at least!) with pride and with love. And as I watched this magical moment between them, all I could think was, “I can’t forget this…I can’t forget this…” 

And so here I am, writing and preserving. While I often hope, in the course of my typical day, that I will forget these years of being overwhelmed, undermanned, stressed to the max, and feeling on the verge of general mania, there are the moments…the quiet, inconsequential moments…that lift you up (so cliche, I know!), that make you forget the other 23 hours and 52 minutes of madness, and make you know….just know…that all the madness is worth these precious moments. So I write it down, so it doesn’t get lost in the memory attic filled with STUFF, so someday I can revisit and remember the beautiful day when I marveled at the creatures I’d created, when I knew every moment of madness was worth it, when I thought - for the briefest moment - that I was doing an okay job. 


carol said...

Oh how I wish I wrote things down, all those special moments in time that get you through the years. They become such a treasure to reflect back on as the kids will when they are grown. They will each have their own memory journal, priceless. You are a great Mom.

Rebekah Billings said...

Always a pleasure to read :). I have tried to write things down and was successful until I wasn't. Keep up the good work lady. You are obviously doing wonderful things with four beautiful children. Huggies.

Roger Abell said...

Hi Kelly. Keep writing the unforgettable precious moments that do get forgotten. This writing was so precious...and I am so happy you shared it . I suspect Matt and Eric will remember their Mom as the best cook in the world....and that is a good memory to have too.
Hope you are all doing okay.....sending our love Roger