This summer, my mom & I were in the car together when the conversation turned to kids and parenting and punishment. She confessed to still feeling super guilty about some incident that happened between us when I was a kid.
I had no memory of it whatsoever.
“You really don’t remember that?” she asked incredulously.
“Oh, my God, I can still see it like it was yesterday,” she said. “I felt so bad. I still do.”
“Well, you can stop beating yourself up about something that happened 35 years ago because I don’t remember it at all” I said, absolving her of decades of guilt.
I told her about a few things I did remember — the time dad spanked me for using a hairdryer in the bathtub (yes, I did), when Uncle Eddie called me fat in front of everyone at Christmas (I hated him for the rest of his life), the time my older brother pitched a baseball into my arm, and that day she found a pack of cigarettes in my room.
She didn’t remember any of that.
It’s weird what we remember.
The specifics of my childhood and even my teen years are lost to me. From reading my diaries of yore, I can recall some of it, but I quit journaling in my teen years. It was too dangerous then. I couldn’t risk my deepest thoughts and confessions falling into the wrong hands (and I was into some shit I shouldn’t have been), so I just didn’t record any of it. I’m sorry now as those are the years I’d most like to examine again with a mature mind.
So after all these years, what I’m left with are overall impressions. It’s like Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I remember the jock who, despite being in the complete opposite clique, flirted with me and made me feel good about myself.
I remember the homecoming queen who was nice to everyone, even girls like me who typically hated girls like her.
I remember the high school history teacher who, exasperated with the antics of the boys in our vo-tech class, dressed us down and made us all feel like losers.
And I remember a mother who made me feel safe and loved, even when I really didn’t deserve it. Even when I pushed her away and told her to leave me alone. Even when I told her I hated her. She loved me anyway. She loved me in spite of me. And even that pissed me off back then.
I hope my daughters will remember feeling loved and forget all the times I lost my cool and shouted: “OH, my GOD, just SHUT UP. Both of you. Just STOP!”
I hope they’ll remember a fun, active mom – the kind that not only took them places, but joined in – going roller skating, ice skating, sledding, and snow tubing with them and forget the times I begged off going upstairs at night to tuck them in.
I hope they’ll remember the Zen mom who shrugged (then blogged) about the nail polish on the brand new coffee table, not the neat freak badgering them to hang up their coat, do their homework, and for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy put their dishes in the dishwasher not the sink!
I hope they’ll remember an imperfect and flawed mother who loved them even more than warm toes, clean counters, and peace & quiet.
My mom, the girls and I in Baltimore this summer.
About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”