Sometimes I wonder what my children will remember about their childhood.
I look back on my own childhood as a glow–colored by bright black-eyed susans and zinnias of every color in my Daddy’s garden. I’m the youngest of nine children, and almost all of my childhood memories are centered around my family and home. My brothers and sisters played wiffle ball in the backyard–I think Mama and Daddy played, too. We climbed trees, played board games, and made up skits for the video camera. I told all of my secrets to my cats.
I remember handmade gifts for Christmas. One year, a sister made me a cloth doll with yellow yarn-hair and beautiful blue eyes painted on. Another year, a sister made me a soft bunny that I slept with until it started to come apart. I remember sitting in a sister’s room for hours, watching her draw in her sketchbook. She let me draw with her, even though I was nine years younger. She made paper dolls for me, and I made my own clothes for them.
We all used to draw for hours. We had contests and art shows and our parents would sometimes buy our drawings for a quarter. My mother is an artist, and we spent many weekends at arts and craft shows, setting up, sitting around, and tearing down. I loved those days. They usually meant reading Nancy Drew books and eating funnel cakes, seeing new places and meeting people. Once Mama traded a neighboring exhibitor one of her paintings for a beautiful turquoise ring for me.
We usually did everything together. If Daddy was visiting someone at the hospital, we would all go for the ride and play games in the car. If Daddy had to check a job for landscaping, we would go along and get ice cream on the way back.
We walked around the block, we had picnics, we went on family vacations to the beach. We listened to music in the car. We went to church together and had everyone from church over to the house on a semi-regular basis. Our door was never locked during the day, and people were constantly walking in and out.
We watched old movies from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s and had most of them taped off of tv (was that legal then…?), so we watched them over and over. I can quote, almost verbatim, so many movies that most people my age have never even heard of.
We played video games. Right after Rosie was born, somebody gave us a Supernintendo. I started playing Super Mario World for the first time since I was a little kid. It was unreal. As soon as I put the controller in my hand, I knew exactly what to do. I moved through all the levels, instinctively knowing where all the secret keys were hidden… Each new level was like visiting a place that I had gone when I was a girl. It was really weird. It took me about 5 hours to beat the game.
We had birthday parties and splendid Christmases. I talked to Mama about Christmas yesterday. I know now that there were many years that they wouldn’t have had any money to get us anything if it hadn’t been for someone in the church who slipped Daddy a card with some money in it a few days before Christmas. I always loved my gifts, and I never knew how my parents sincerely hoped we liked them and that they would be good enough. I know that now, and I understand it in a completely new way–having lived as a parent through Christmases like that myself.
I love my parents and my brothers and sisters. It is strange how you all live together for such a formative part of your life, doing everything together, having the same general experiences, quoting the same movies, remembering the same classic stories, telling the same family jokes–and then, one by one, you grow up and leave one another. You are still connected, and you are still in touch, but those days are gone forever.
I think about this now–even though Rosie is 5, Paloma is 3, and Kells is 18 months. Their lives are so intertwined. Surely their memories of childhood will be centered around one another. And around Randy and me.
It can get so crazy around here. I honestly feel like most days, my main focus is on maintaining some order, feeding everyone, and keeping the kids away from the tv. I feel like sometimes all I do is tell them to clean up, one mess after another, all day long. But life with three little kids is messy!
I love to sit down and read with them. I hope they remember this.
And I hope they remember their Daddy’s laughter. They draw a special laughter out of him. I have never heard this particular quality in his laugh in any other circumstance. It is just for them. It is always accompanied by a look of sincere love and tenderness on his face. He truly enjoys his children as much as any Daddy I have ever known. I am so glad to be married to a man like that.
We watched old home videos tonight. I barely remember when the kids were babies. That seems so long ago. It seems unbelievable that I have a daughter who draws pictures of butterflies and rainbows and folds laundry and can play songs by ear on the piano. When did she get so big?
Life is flying by. Almost daily, somebody tells me to enjoy this time because it will be gone before I know it. I can sense that already. I don’t want to waste this golden time by saying “no” all the time or by focusing on all of the things that I am not able to accomplish because I am too pregnant and tired or too preoccupied with my never-ending to-do list.
My children are creating their memories of childhood right now. I want them to be good.