Tag Archives: childhood

Memory Lane

It’s funny how the mind can skip from one random event to another and draw connections. Our minds evolved to see patterns and connections because it helped us survive. So, it isn’t really all that surprising that your mind can go tripping through memories if you let it.

The other day I accidentally hit a bird with the car. I know. I was very sad about this, especially when I noted its bird buddies’ concern. I didn’t kill it, but it definitely was injured. I was already merging into traffic and couldn’t really stop. Normally birds are excellent flyers and get out of the way, and I usually slow down a bit to give them plenty of time. That day I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t. 😦

For whatever reason, this reminded me of the time my sister came home all worked up about hitting a racoon. I believe there was more to the story, but I don’t recall it. That memory blip jumped to a time where I was carting one of Justin’s friends home. As we crossed a little bridge over a drainage canal I braked for an animal that was in the road. It was a HUGE rat. I may possibly have shrieked a little.

As my brain pulled up that incident, my eighteen year old self felt not so different from my nearly thirty-six year old self. I’ve lived nearly as much additional life now as I had up to that point, and yet while I’ve grown in many ways, I’m still very much the same girl who braked for a rat. My brother’s presence in the back seat and the kid in the front felt very close to the teens I cart around now and my own son. Mr. Smarty-Pants does not physically favor his uncle, but he got a heaping helping of his personality. Sure, he is very much his own person, but the similarities at times are striking. Justin teased me for braking for a rat, just as Mr. Smarty-Pants once urged me to gun for a turkey that ran across the road so we could eat it (I didn’t). It really isn’t a surprise that my brain can draw connections between events related only by an animal in the road and a vehicle barreling toward it.

My relationship with my little brother was a combination of camaraderie and motherliness, as being the eldest I felt it my job to watch out for my younger siblings. My relationship with my son bears the same combination of feelings, albeit in different proportions, and so of course, is prone to sparking that random memory connection. When speaking to family members, it is not uncommon for me to have to correct names, as the wrong one slips out. That rarely happens when I’m talking directly to my children, but add in the connection to my sister or my parents, or my grandparents, and my brain trips over a lifetime networked memories.

They say that the more connections one makes with regards to a memory, the less likely one is to forget it. We used to joke that my mother remembered everything. I don’t proclaim to recall everything, but people have remarked that I do have very good recall. I can tell you the plot of the first really long chapter book I read at maybe 10 years old. I can remember playing hide-and-seek with my mom and being eye-level with her dog. I recall visiting my brother in the ICU (although I buried that one for awhile), and  seeing my sister on the fuzzy ultrasound screen. I remember pulling up the carpet in the apartment at age four to watch the little ants underneath scurry about their little ant lives. I remember dissecting a washed and dried ball of paper when I was maybe 3 or 4 and wondering if there was something in it. Fast forward and I’m sitting at the dining room table at age 6 or 7 in the summer and my brother is telling some silly joke about trains. It was the kind of joke that only made sense to a kid and I’ve long forgotten the details, but that moment of pure happiness, with everyone laughing until their sides ached, that moment remains crystal clear. I can rattle off plenty more, some happy, some sad, some a mix, but the point is that they are primarily ordinary days doing nothing in particular.

All of that reminds me to cherish the little random moments in life. People make a big deal about the big key moments, life events, but in truth when your brain goes skipping down memory lane it’s snapshots of every day life that paint the portrait of your past. Years from now when my grandchildren are my children’s age now, more connections will be made and it won’t be the “big days” so much as the little things, like telling Ms. Drama that the window is not a door, or cuddling with Miss Diva while watching a TV show, or shrieking when Mr. Smarty-Pants sneaks up behind me and picks me up—his uncle did that too.

Just this past weekend I shared with Miss Diva the bit of wisdom that happiness comes from within you. It comes from living in the moment and seeing the beauty even in the midst of less than ideal circumstances. Happiness isn’t a destination or a reward, but a state of mind, a contentment that comes from love.

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A different sort of lens

When I was about Miss Diva’s age I found an old camera at the resale shop and begged my parents to get it for me. It used 110 film, which was cheaper than the standard 35mm. I think it cost a whopping $3, so my parents relented. I’d save my pennies and quarters to buy film and with great care pick what I wanted to capture. My parents graciously covered the cost of developing them.

I captured plenty of accidental ground shots, blurry faces, and truncated body parts. I learned what my camera could do and what it couldn’t.  Action shots guaranteed a psychedelic blur of color. When it finally gave out due to an accidental gravity test, I think I cried.

As it happens,this week and the first part of next week is spend all my money on field trips week the last week of school. Miss Diva handed me a letter from the teacher advising that they could bring disposable cameras.

“So I can bring mine?”

“No. Yours is not disposable.”

“But it only cost $20.”

“That doesn’t make it disposable. Someone could steal it.”

“So can I have a disposable camera?”

I sighed. “Okay.”

We trekked to Target. I admit, I last bought a disposable camera around the time Miss Drama was born. I still have a used one lying around the house. I should probably get it developed.

Once upon a time one could find half a dozen different types of disposable cameras. Target had two, and only a few of each in stock. When Miss Diva opened it I explained the flash and winding mechanism.

“How do I see the pictures?”

“You don’t.”

“Can I delete them?”

“Nope.”

“How do you get them off and look at them?”

“You send it out to be developed.”

“What happens if a picture is blurry?”

“You throw it away. You only have twenty-seven exposures, so only take pictures of things you really want to capture.”

She sat in the back seat soaking up these solemn revelations. Later on, not two minutes into decorating her camera to make it different than all the other disposable cameras classmates might bring, she accidentally took a picture. I showed her that if she didn’t advance the roll, even if she hit the button again, no more film would be wasted.

I have albums and albums of pictures developed from cameras like her little disposable camera. I carefully picked poses and events, making those twenty-seven exposures last. Looking at the albums, one might think I ceased taking pictures after Miss Drama’s infancy, but I merely went digital.

While Miss Diva is looking at her antiquated camera with annoyance, I look at it and see an echo of my childhood and an end to an era.

Flashback Tuesday

Several friends of mine have recently had little bundles of joyous pooping, crying, eating machines. What? I’m just telling it like it is. I’m a 3-time veteran of the baby and toddler years. My sis used to accuse me of lacking fashion sense even after I started buying my own clothes. Thing is, by the time I had money to buy clothes with any regularity, I was a mom. I learned pretty quick that silk blouses and jewelry do not mix with babies or toddlers.

For about six years I picked clothes based on comfort, their ability to hide stains, and compatibility with either pregnancy or breast-feeding. Besides, who can spare brain cells for things like color coordinating when you’re trying to outsmart a toddler that can find the brownies no matter where you hide them?

I recently read a Huffington Post blog article and it brought back traumatic fond memories. Having three very different kids, I’ve concluded that there is no magically easy age or soul-sucking horrific age. Much like life itself, each kid has their ups and downs, times when they seem “easy” and times you contemplate that whole duct tape thing. Each child will find new and inventive ways to try your patience while managing to make you laugh, warm your heart, and debate the efficacy of banging your head on a wall.

A visual snapshot of my roller-coaster minions:

Fun with Excel

I fully expect each of those lines to take a sharp up-turn when they hit year 13.  I suppose on the bright side, I’ve never had all three of them at full steam “drive-mom-bat-shit-crazy” for any significant period of time. This is likely due to their inability to agree on much of anything, including how to drive me nuts. I might ought to quit attempting to get them to work together. That could totally backfire.

From a Certain Point of View

The other day I was discussing very early memories with a friend. Here’s one of a handful of memories from when I was about two and a half years old:

My little brother was brand new and my mom had gotten him to nap at the time I was supposed to nap. She tucked me in for my nap and then went to take one herself. (Wise woman)

At the time we had a very old little dog, Pepe. My mom had gotten him when she was a teenager and he was getting up there in years. After an initial spurt of jealousy, he learned he stayed on Mama’s good side if he protected the tiny pink wiggly humans. So, he often kept an eye on my adventures in the apartment where we lived.

That particular afternoon I had no particular desire to take a nap, unlike many current afternoons. (Naps are wasted on the young.) So, quietly, as not to wake my baby brother or my mother, I tiptoed across my room and slowly turned the knob and peeked out into the living room. The coast was clear! Grand adventures without parental supervision awaited!

I stepped out into the hall and toddled into the living room. Pepe lay curled up on the carpet. He raised his head and looked at me. I froze in my steps. I had not factored Pepe into my shenanigans plan. He got up, and he did not seem pleased that I was interrupting his nap. We stood there eye to eye. I maybe had a couple of inches on him, but not much. Sure, we were buds, but suddenly I noticed he had teeth….lots more than me. He let out a low bark and I forgot all about the teeth. I raised a finger to my lips and said “Shhhh!”

He didn’t listen. He took a couple of steps down the hall toward my mother’s room, paused and looked over his shoulder, and let out another “Woof.”

“Okay. Okay! I’ll go nap!” I muttered, and ran back to my room. I waited a minute and peaked out, and the smart little bugger had parked himself in front of my door. He raised his head and I shut the door again.

I trudged back to bed; my dreams of unsupervised living room play dashed. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep minutes after crawling back into my bed.

~~~

As I relate the story, I can distinctly recall the emotions that I felt and the things I saw and did. It occurred to  me though that I have no way of telling that story without overlaying my adult interpretation. In fact, the story might sound silly and contrived if I attempted to write as my two-year old self. Some characters and points of view can broaden the reader’s perspective and give glimpses of fantastical worlds, and others can end up sounding far-fetched and trite.

In writing, deciding who is telling the story can greatly change how the reader perceives the events. Real life gives us many examples of this. Ask any two people about an argument or event and you’ll get two very different stories.

Sometimes it takes sitting down and telling a bit of the story from one point of view or another before finding the one that tells the story you wish the audience to read. Above all, don’t choose a point of view simply because you think it sells better. Always be true to the characters whose story you are writing.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I think we all have that one story from way back when that our friends tell over, and over, and over again. Mine goes like this:

In eighth grade I was walking from lunch with my friends Emily and Nick. We were chatting about something as we headed for class. Unbeknownst to me, Ben was coming up behind us. His and Nick’s favorite pastime was goosing me. Mostly I think because no matter now many times they did it, I squealed every single time.

Ben, of course, goosed me. Only this time, he caught me so off guard that I dropped all my books on the floor. Even worse, the vice principal was mere feet away and looking at me. I pretty much collapsed to the ground in a fit of embarrassed laughter. I suspect the VP was wondering if she needed to call men in white coats.

To this day, in the presence of those two hooligans, I still keep an eye out for possible goosing opportunities. Unfortunately for them, I have a mean back kick now. 🙂

Friday when I went to pick up the girls from daycare, Miss Diva was bouncing a ball with a friend. I snuck up and goosed her. She not only squealed, but hit the ground as if ducking for cover, only sprawled. In that moment, just in case I had any doubts, I confirmed that my daughter does indeed take after me.

Maybe I should teach her how to throw a back kick.

 

 

Did too! Did not!!

Last night, while soaking in warmth from the fire and attempting to make my neurons do something other than “zzzzzzz”, Mr. Smarty-pants and Miss Diva were supposed to be folding laundry. Miss Drama, under my somewhat cognizant attention, worked on her homework. While Miss Drama puzzled out complicated words like, “by” and “any” and put them into sentences (to her credit, she makes up far more creative sentences than her brother, her sister, or I did at that age).

Unfortunately the barrage of insults and threats of bodily violence piled up in the living room to the point I wanted to pursue a tactical retreat to the bedroom. I’ve been reading a book on sibling rivalry, but I had neither the energy or cognitive function to try out new child psychology techniques. The attitude Mr. Smarty-pants whipped out when confronted by Soup King made me wonder if I could wheedle a return policy on a defective child after all. I can be convincing at times. Then again, to whom would I return him?

The clothes got folded, without bloodshed, which is more a testament to my exhaustion and self-restraint than any decrease in their ongoing bickering.

This morning I mused as I drove to work. Were my brother, sister, and I really that bad? I recall a few arguments that devolved into punching and kicking, but those were not the norm. Generally fear of reprisal and murder by our parents prompted quick apologies and the matter was somehow resolved to everyone’s mutual compromise and partial dissatisfaction. Maybe I’m imagining a rosier past. Here are a few things I will admit occurred, and while funny as hell, were not really all that nice at the time.

In no particular order….

1) When I acquired bunk beds my bro and I found endless entertainment climbing to the top and leaping off. Before the years of pre-teen angst, no fun was complete unless all of us participated. Therefore we convinced our little sister (roughly 4  or 5 yrs old at the time) to do the same. She was scared and didn’t really want to do it. We goaded and convinced to the point of putting pillows on the floor for her to land on. While we let her land without incident a time or two to lull her, we then snatched away the pillows as soon as she jumped. I don’t recall serious trauma ever occurring, but she probably thought we were attempting to murder her. From our viewpoint we were entertained by the hysterics that resulted and thought we were teaching her to be brave.

2) We convinced my little sis that the dolls and stuffed animals were alive and moved when you weren’t looking. Really, my bro did the convincing. I just went along. We then proceeded to mock her for falling for it. She was five. We were mean.

3) My bro once convinced me that aliens had landed in the back yard. He totally had me until the part where he went w/them on their ship. He didn’t let me live it down for YEARS.

4) There was an unending diary war. We’d pick the lock of a sibling’s diary, read it, then tease them about the contents. My bro got smart rather quickly and stopped writing in his. DOH! Me, I simply threatened to sit on whomever read mine and then tried to hide it well. (That worked until he hit about eleven, at which point despite weighing like twenty pounds less than me and being several inches shorter he could pick me up, give me a piggy back ride, or even do a push-up with me on his back. I was extremely impressed by the last feat and thought twice from then on about making him REALLY mad.)

5) My bro and I constantly made fun of my sis’s frizzy hair. Nowadays she knows how to style naturally curly hair and is not subject to the haircuts of our mother’s choice. I envied the amount of hair and the natural curl for years, until I realized I don’t have the patience for dealing with that much hair. When she was a teen, rather than wear a pony-tail when she needed to style her hair quickly, she’d pile it into this half-loop-pony-tail thing. Not quite a bun, not quite a pony-tail, it kept her hair out of the way, but didn’t exactly shout “Stylish”. My bro named it or alternatively referred to it as a bird sanctuary. I couldn’t help it; I laughed my ass off.

6) In case you hadn’t noticed the trend, we picked on my poor sis A LOT. To be fair, if she seemed genuinely very upset I stepped in and tried to balance the scales, switching to “her side” of an argument or whatever it took to make sure she wasn’t irreparably scarred for life. One of the longest running inside jokes that never failed to rile her during our pre-teen and teen years actually got started by our dad. (We simply perpetuated it.) My dear sis had a gullible streak a mile wide when she was a kid, which often left her wide open to jokes. One day at the store she begged our dad for a bottle of no-frizz spray gel for her hair. She said something worthy of a dumb blond joke, which I no longer recall, and thus the “No ditz spray” joke was born (complete with miming the pumping of a mythical spray bottle).

7) The one that always makes people say “Do what?” is the time my bro and I convinced poor sis that a burp could pinch you. Truly yours, in an effort to stay ahead of her little bro, could (and  still can) burp on command. He stood either beside or slightly behind sis and pinch her when I did the burping. Bro would have totally kept it up, but I couldn’t keep up the joke. I laughed and laughed and we didn’t let her live that one down.

8) You know how younger siblings like to tag along? Well, my sis was no exception. I desperately wanted “mature” teen time (you can laugh…I am) as I rode bikes with my friend around the neighborhood. Little sis on her little one-speed bike begged to come along. I always relented, but then nine times out of ten, at some point my friend and I would challenge her to a race, giving her head start. Only, while she was peddling as fast as she could, we turned ours in the opposite direction and took off. She always found me (I didn’t really hide. The guilt kicked in.).

9) My bro found it hilarious to refer to our room as “no panty land”. No, it had absolutely nothing to do with OUR clothing, but rather, our dolls. Back in those days dolls came equipped with little tidy whities, which we somehow always lost. Nothing got us girls fired up as much as his slight against our dolls and their domain. (I think mostly it was because we couldn’t come up with a sufficiently insulting reference for HIS room and stuffed animal collection.)

10) When my bro was a grand age of about two, he had a brief fascination with the toilet (which included taste testing the water). He swiped my brand new cow-girl dolls, undressed them, and flushed their boots down the toilet. For revenge I gave his unicorn a haircut.

The hair was once 3x that long. At least he still had the unicorn.

Even with all of that, I still think we got along better than my kids.