I don’t know if other mothers do this, but I’m constantly thinking about how my children will remember their childhoods.
We’ll be in the middle of our lives, and suddenly I see it all as a snapshot. I look at the people and the surroundings, the faces and the details of what we’re wearing, and I wonder – will they remember this? Will they look back at this memory and see it the way I see it right now?
I know I see my own childhood as a series of snapshots. I can flip through the pages in my mind as easily as if I was turning the pages of a scrapbook in my hands.
There is my baby brother, Creed, in his blue snowsuit with his hat pulled down over his red face. He’s surrounded by snow and trees and he’s only about 4 or 5, I think – but he’s doing his best to cuss out the snowshoes my mother has strapped to his little feet. “This is sssstupid!” he mutters with each failed attempt to walk in the oversized wooden tennis rackets. And my mother and my other brother and I can’t help but laugh at him. And we’re laughing, too, at my mother – who is always making us try crap like this.
There is me in a fake leather mini skirt and an olive green shirt with shoulder pads. I’m watching the clock on the dashboard of our car and anxiously calculating the time we have left to get to the New Kids On The Block concert. I’m certain we’re going to be late, and I cannot believe that I am going to see New Kids On The Block, just like Lisa and her family and her expensive jeans with holes in them that my mother won’t buy for me. A limo drives by us on the highway and my mother is just sure that Joey and Danny and Donny and Jordan and Jon – was that his name? – are probably in that limo! “Britt! Give me your button!” she says, and I remind her that she wouldn’t let me bring my oversized New Kids button and doesn’t she wish she would have listened to me now.
There is me and my mom in that run down duplex in the crappy part of town. I’ve just had my eyes dilated and I can’t really see, so I take my color by numbers book into the bathroom where my mom is taking a bath and I ask her to tell me where I’m supposed to color.
There is the cardboard box that I am sitting on in the middle of the kitchen in that crappy duplex, and I am shoving hunks of food bank cheese into the holes that are supposed to be handles in the box. This stuff is disgusting, and I refuse to eat it.
There is me and my mom, again, in that same kitchen in that crappy duplex. And now there is a table instead of a box and the top of it is covered in newspapers and balloons and glue made out of flour and water. We’re making some kind of paper mache presents for everyone for Christmas. I am so impressed with my mom’s craftiness. I am, even at that age, grateful that she helps me make stuff for my dad’s parents. I think it’s pretty cool that she still loves them and helps me to love them, even though she’s not married to my dad anymore.
It’s all in there, somewhere. The good, the bad, the heartbreaking and the mundane. Flashes of a whole life that I know now my mom was always busting her ass to build for us. For me.
I wonder if she knew the snapshots were being taken at the time. I wonder if she had any idea what was being recorded and what was being forgotten and how all of it was being processed in my little kid brain. I wonder if, like me, she was constantly afraid of what the album would look like when I had finished it.
I remembered these snapshots last night.
I had just gotten home from my spinning class and the kids had already eaten dinner. The radio was playing instead of the TV. Jared had some old classic rock blaring through the iPod speakers in an effort to educate the kids on good music.
Someone started to dance.
It was probably me, because that’s what I do when I hear music. And then all of us – me and Jared and Devin and Emma – were shaking our hands in the air and kicking our feet to the music and having a dance party in the middle of the living room. We were singing and I was teaching Devin how to twirl a girl around and showing Emma what jazz hands were. The music was bouncing from classic rock to jazz to big band to 80s pop. Jared would holler, “Listen, Devin! That’s a trumpet! Oooh – do you hear that trombone?” We went on like that for an hour and a half, until it was time for the kids to get their butts in bed.
I saw all of us there in that living room, smiling and dancing and flush from the movement, and I wondered if the kids were making snapshots.
I wondered if this picture would make the cut, amongst the pictures of Mom in bed and Dad coming home late from work and Mom telling Dad that she “just couldn’t take it anymore!” Would this picture, this picture of us laughing and happy and dancing in the living room, would this find its place amongst the other ones?
Will they hear the Rolling Stones someday and remember their mother doing a Mick Jagger impression in her workout clothes?
When they are grown and moved away and someone asks them “what was your childhood like?”, will they pull out this memory as proof that they were loved and happy and raised by parents who did the very best they knew how?
Will they look back someday on their childhoods and remember that their parents taught them to dance?