These are the years they will remember

Most mornings, I walk Grace and Whit into their respective school buildings.  Occasionally, if I have to make it to an early meeting or something, I do “live drop off” instead, letting them hop out of the car while I idle at the curb.  For some reason this always brings tears to my eyes.  There’s something about their backpacks bobbing away from me, their independence, their resolve, their enthusiasm for school – all of it mixes up into a cocktail that brings tears to my eyes as surely as onions on the chopping board or Circle Game on the radio.

The other morning was no different.  I drove away, blinking back my tears, and suddenly I thought: these are the years they will remember as their childhood.  We had driven to school all belting out Edge of Glory together, and then we had sat in the car near school singing along until the song ended.  I looked in the rear view mirror to catch them grinning at each other, overwhelmed again with the realization that tiny things can bring sheer joy for them.

I remember when Grace turned four thinking: okay, this really matters now.  That is because my own memories of childhood begin when I am about four.  I actually don’t have that many memories of my childhood, and those I do exist in a slippery kind of way: am I remembering the actual event, or the picture I’ve seen so many times of the event?  I wonder if part of why I write things down so insistently now is to address this very fact, this inability to remember when I so desperately wish I could.

My flashes of memory, as limited as they are, begin in the second apartment we lived in in Paris.  I was four-ish.  So, my assumption was that Grace and Whit would start remembering things from the same general time period.  Certainly, they will remember these days.  The power of the most mundane moments and experiences – something I’ve long believed fiercely in – was probably particularly on my mind after reading The Long Goodbye last week.  For sure, O’Rourke’s memoir had me thinking particularly of the memories of our mothers that endure.

And so I drove into Boston, my eyes still blurry with tears, watching the outrageously beautiful trees that line the Charles, the river that throbs through the heart of my home, wondering what it is that Grace and Whit will remember of these days.  We are “deep in the happy hours,” as Glenda Burgess put it in her stunning memoir The Geography of Love, and one thing I’m certain of is that it will be the small moments that most sturdily abide.  Will they remember the notice things walks, the trips to the tower at Mount Auburn, trapeze school, and chocolate cake for breakfast?  Will they remember the hundreds of nights that I read to them, tucked them in, administered the sweet dreams head rub, did the ghostie dance, turned on their familiar lullabies?  Will they remember Christmas, and Easter, and Thanksgiving, and their birthdays?

I have no idea what specific events and experiences will be the ones that rise up for my children, out of the dust of the years, some surprising, some familiar.  I could easily drive myself insane trying to make sure every single day is stuffed with memories.  But I choose not to do that, because, as I’ve written before, the memories that I come back to, rubbing them over in my mind like a hand worrying a smooth stone in my pocket, are almost all from days and moments that were utterly unremarkable, unmemorable, as I lived them.  I assume this will also be true for Grace and Whit.  So I suppose all I can do is try to be here, paying attention, to the vast expanse of ordinary days we swim in.  And to remember, every single day, what an immense privilege each one is.


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9 Comments

  1. Posted October 24, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    this haunts me daily too…the idea that my children (ages 8 and 6) are in their childhood proper, the one they will remember. and i am constantly wondering if our daily rituals are worthy of them (is it/am i “enough”)…even though i know it is a toxic exercise. so true that what i remember most are the unremarkable moments…if i could infuse those with presence, grace, love…well, that would be magic (the sacred ordinary kind). breathing in this immensity. exhaling the gratitude. as always, thank you, lindsey.

  2. Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    On the other side of this fascinating equation, I am becoming increasingly aware of all the moments I no longer remember from childhood — or last week. 🙂 When I think about what my boys will remember, I worry less about the individual memories and more about how they felt at the time. Did they grow up feeling happy, safe and loved? I don’t ever want them to remember a long period of time when they were sad or scared… in the moment this is ok and inevitable but over the long run, unacceptable. The older they get, the bigger the picture – at least for me. But I too feel moments of panic when I think its not measuring up for them. Sigh.

  3. Hilary Levey Friedman
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Making me teary this morning as get ready to make own childhood memories…

  4. Posted October 24, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Oh this SO resonates with me! I was four when I started remembering, also. I thought the same thing when Sadie turned four. All of my memories are slippery, too.

    PS. I’ve missed your writing – my little babe is snoring so I am spending the morning engrossed in blogs and books. I love coming here. I love the vulnerable place in which you write. And I love thinking about these difficult and compelling topics. Thank you for your words.

  5. Posted October 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    “The small moments that most sturdily abide” — so so true, and so beautifully said. I love the photo in the waiting room, too. So much time during these years is spent just like this, sitting, waiting, and yet it’s all part of the dance, part of the big picture that is life, and as you know so well and as you keep reminding us. It’s all precious. Lovely post, my friend.

  6. Posted October 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I often think I remember very little of my younger years. However, I surprised myself when I was writing a blog post to my sister about our relationship and I remembered so much. They were ordinary days but extraordinary times. Times of bonding and being just sisters. I suspect (and hope for Whit and Grace and all other siblings including my own) that the days of ordinary will be remembered as extraordinary. Time spent together doing whatever – but being together.

  7. Posted October 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    As I think you know, I try to do the same, try to remember the different pieces and angles of our days together. But I don’t often about what they’ll remember. Hmmmm…

  8. Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh friend, you have captured in a post something that has been on my heart lately. Our “big A.” is 4 1/2 now and I have thought, too, how this is about the time when I started to ‘remember’ things. And I’ve thought exactly what you said, “THESE ARE THE THINGS THEY WILL REMEMBER.” And it’s the mundane stuff. It’s the same for me. I was cutting a grapefruit the other day and I stopped. I remembered how my mom would so often cut my grapefruit for me as a kiddo — and cut out each little triangle so I could easily scoop it out. And how it was no big deal then to me. But now as a mom, and i only have two kiddos!, i was overcome w/ this sense of gratitude for her and her “everyday kindness.” I took a picture for a future blog post! But it made me think “What things are my kiddos going to ‘hold onto’ like this?” Thank you for this post of yours. It’s so good to know that there is a like-hearted mama out there – who can sob over these things too.

  9. Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    As usual, you have written about a topic that is often on my mind – and as always it feels like you’ve been able to put into words, what I struggle to articulate.

    I recently wrote down a quote from a Steady Mom post that I think compliments your last paragraph… “What will our children remember when they leave our homes – how busy Mum was or how joyful she made them feel?”

    I think more than any concrete memories from my own childhood, I remember it as a joyous time and I hope that I can pass that feeling on to my little ones.

    H x