I was all set to sit and write a post about storytelling. I had been writing the words in my head all day and looked forward to a thought provoking post on paper. But it will now wait for another day. Because I just got an email from my mom. One that made me “feel” so much that I need to push the original words out of my head and write about something else.
My mom does not read my blog very often. It’s not that she’s not interested in my life or what goes on in it (much to the contrary) but she very rarely has the chance to sit at her computer to read it. I know if I send her an email, it will be a week before she responds. If I want her attention on something, I call. And I do call. A Lot. We talk frequently about little things and big things. She’s a great sounding board for my thoughts, a fantastic audience for my stories that only a mom could love and an honest friend. But she doesn’t read my blog. Unless I call her when I know she’s home, remind her of my website and tell her to sit down and read it right then.
Friday I told her to read my Love Letter to Sleep. I thought she’d think it was entertaining. (She did). I didn’t realize she’d read other posts while she was on my site. But I guess she had the time and decided to peruse around. Turns out, she read my most recent post about memories. And after she read it, she sent me this email:
“That blog was beautiful, honey. I feel the same as you about the snow–get the same “feelings” you do looking at it–the memories are also the same-strangely not from my childhood, but from yours. The other day (I was telling Dad) I passed a great snowman and it took my thoughts to building them with you and Lee. We have a picture of us with our creation hanging in the laundry room. I remember that day and the fun I had. But the picture of us–neither you or Lee is smiling and I began thinking–was I the only one who had fun? Did I force you to build the snowman? Were you freezing? Then I felt so sad–wanting to do it all again–and make sure you were happy. I love you honey–I hope you were happy.”
I choked back tears when I read this short note. It struck me. Hard. I felt so SAD that my mom wondered about my happiness. I felt so BAD that she didn’t have the memories from her childhood, but only from mine. So many memories are only memories because of the pictures that we hold onto through the years. Do we really REMEMBER or do we only think we remember because of these pictures? And what if the picture doesn’t tell the whole story? Expressionless faces. The hugs given after the photo was shot. A missing smile because we didn’t hear the photographer say cheese. The fact that this was the 7th picture taken and our faces were frozen solid. Missing pieces of the story. How do we capture the full story so that 30 years from now, I’m not asking my kids, “were you happy?”
I don’t remember the time my mom cites in her email, although I know the picture well. I’ve passed it thousands of times at my parent’s house. I was three. My brother 5. We stood on either side of our huge snowman creation with my parents standing behind us. My brother and my faces are as serious as the snowman’s. I don’t remember if I was freezing and begging to go inside for hot chocolate. I don’t know if my brother had repeatedly thrown snowballs at my face. I don’t know if I was tired of standing waiting for my dad to figure out the self timer on his camera. But my mom is right. I don’t look happy.
I will be devastated if I look back at these years with my kids with such wonder. Wonder of whether the times that I cherish with my kids, were equally cherished by them. I wish I could reassure my mom and tell her, “Of course I was happy in that picture!” But I can’t. But I can remind her of the times that I DO recall being so much more than just happy. I can reassure her that I’m so thankful for the things she did with me and encouraged me to do. I can let her know that I’m not just enjoying childhood with Hannah and Luke… I also truly LOVED the childhood she gave me. I may not have proof in pictures, but I hope she’ll take my word for it.
This is one more reason I’m so thankful for this blog. This place where I can add words and emotion to the photographs. This place where I can memorialize so much more than was done when I was young. This place where I can hope to capture it all, so that if we don’t look happy, at least we’ll know why.