In the midst of searching for something the other day, a medical record or a tax form or some other piece of the paperwork puzzle of adulthood, I came across a box of old photographs.
There is something magical about sifting through old photos, from the black and white snapshots of my grandparents to the first documented memories of blossoming romance through to the cute naked butts of my children. There are photos of people no longer alive, smiling out from fading rectangles, photos of vacations, of other memorable events. Documented evidence of a life so far lived.
It’s amazing the memories that a 4×6 glossy print can evoke.
In the pile there was a photo of my eldest son in a Halloween costume I made when he was two. I’m not a natural sewer. It took me days and several additional trips to the fabric store to make it. I had to cajole and bribe just to get him in it when the day finally arrived. My son, if he remembers the event at all, probably remembers not the homemade costume, but the booty an hour of trick or treating up and down Bedford Avenue netted him.
That’s the thing about kids, they’re fickle little buggers. The things we slave over, the things we drive ourselves bat shit crazy over, the things we spend the most waking hours fretting and baking and sewing and worrying over—those things? Those are not the things they remember.
They aren’t going to remember the thousands of balanced meals you plonked in front of them. They’re going to remember the nights you piled in the car and went to the drive through at McDonald’s.
They aren’t going to remember that you made sure they had a different vegetable at dinner than they did at lunch, or that they had an equal number of vegetarian vs. meat based meals during the week. They’re going to remember the time you were hung over and let them have ice cream for dinner.
They aren’t going to remember the carefully chosen gender neutral wooden toys. They’re going to remember the giant, plastic dump truck that played a southern rock anthem.
They aren’t going to remember the lovingly crafted birthday cupcakes and thoughtful party favor bags. They’re going to remember that Jimmy cheated at pin the hose on the fire truck and Nick refused to pass the parcel.
They’re not going to remember the adorable dragon costume you spent weeks sewing for Halloween. They’re going to remember the crappiest of the most preservative laden candy they got while trick or treating.
They’re not going to remember the hours you spent on the floor playing Playmobil pirate football instead of watching another episode of Go, Diego, Go! which is what you both really wanted to do. They’re going to remember that time you were sick and they got to watch television all day long.
They’re not going to remember how you kissed them before you went to bed every, single nigh. They’re going to remember the one time you kissed them at the school gate and their friends saw it and they wanted to D.I.E..
They’re not going to remember the mileage you put on the car or the Saturdays you sacrificed shuttling them to and from ballet and swimming and sports practice. They’re going to remember the time you let them skip violin lesson and go to Burger King.
They’re not going to remember the beautifully written and illustrated books you chose for them for birthdays and Christmas. They’re going to remember the Lego.
They’re not going to remember the nights you stayed up with them when they were ill, checking on them every half hour, spoon-feeding Tylenol into them while they were asleep. They’re going to remember the one night they stayed up past drooling on the pillow time because you were drinking wine with friends in the kitchen.
They’re not going to remember all the educational toys you picked out, the puzzles and the games and logic boosting challenges. They’re going to remember the Nerf Gun you bought in a moment of weakness.
They’re not going to remember the carrot sticks and the apple slices,. They’re going to remember the Munchkins and the McNuggets.
They’re not going to remember the outings to art museums and city tours. They’re going to remember the crappy pizza you had in the cafeteria at the theme park.
They’re not going to remember the hours of effort; the blood, the sweat and the tears. They’re going to remember the times you said ‘no’.
Those will be their memories, the stuff that populates their childhood dreams and nostalgia driven conversations. Until.
Until they have children of their own and find themselves scribbling notes for lunch boxes or staying up late to bake odd-shaped cakes or struggling through lacrosse practice on two hours sleep and a champagne hangover. Then they will remember, and maybe, just maybe, even understand. Some day they will be looking for a medical receipt or a piece of the paper trail and will come across pictorial evidence: of languished over Halloween costumes and birthday cake fails and other little love notes of childhood. And they will finally get it. You may even get a phone call, thanking you.
For the memories.
11 Comments Add yours
Old photos are the best time machines.
Until you find yourself looking at a grainy black and white photo, wondering “who the hell are these people?”, and no one can answer.
I wonder what my kids will be looking back on though. Memory sticks, hard drives. Doesn’t have the same romantic feel as a photo in hand though does it. And thank you for the link up on your blog, that was most kind and very much appreciated!
You’re welcome! I read a lot of good stuff, and I try and share at least some of it every week.
(If I shared it all, I’d fill up all the wp servers.)
(Seriously, I read way too much.)
Coming from a pretty broken family, I have very few memories of me doing anything with my parents during my childhood. That’s why I always think that bringing up kids is about creating positive memories, whatever they are. Because it’s what sticks which is going to count in 30 years.
That was so, ummm, memorable. Thanks.
I’ll take your thanks, Elyse. Somedays it’s all you get ;-).
Isn’t it the truth!
Yup. Infuriatingly so, sometimes!
Talk about coincidence. I just put together a post I’ll put up tomorrow using photos of my children (now 15 and 13). I had a whole other post ready to go and had to find a particular photo. I started going through one file which included my children’s younger years. I was pulled back in time with their images. I put off what I’d already written and decided to use their beautiful faces. You’ve written a lovely post here. Thank you for sharing.
Someone once mentioned a ‘hive mind’ in the blogosphere and I fell in love with the idea. Sometimes an idea that you’ve been mulling over pops up somewhere else or you start noticing coincidences like the one you mentioned. I’m fascinated by the idea, that we are all part of a whole, buzzing with ideas and thoughts and that sometimes those thoughts and ideas are shared. It’s happened to me more times than I can count, especially on here. You have an idea and then you see it in 10 other places at once. But I think it always adds to the depth of our own contributions. I would love to read your post when it’s up!
I know coincidences in life and art are wild. I always think the crossword puzzles I do in the morning are stalking me. It seems (unless I’m off my nut which is possible due to lack of cheese doodles) I’ll be thinking of something for a story or I’ll have an idea kernel and there it will be in my morning crossword.
Lovely to meet you 🙂