Though our lives are pretty much consumed with those two things at the moment. Our timeline is holding so far, and for that I am grateful so let’s not jinx it.
Instead, allow me to take a moment to talk about something completely different. Sort of.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my childhood. The past. What memories I have and how those memories make me feel. This is probably not all that surprising given that I am embarking on a journey that will infect a young and impressionable mind with memories of her own, but this post is not about her.
Also not surprising are that a lot of my memories surround foods, meals, snacks. Like the time we went to an air show but the only real thing I can remember about it is that I had just had cavities filled at the dentist and had to eat my chicken nuggets on one side of my mouth. And I kept biting my tongue. And they tasted weird. Or that other time we went to the San Diego state fair and my dad “tricked” me into eating Calamari which I thought was gross. And still think is gross, though I do give it a try every couple years or so because my husband likes it so much. One memory that sticks so clearly in my mind keeps coming up. My father’s father sitting across the table from me at dinner one night, reaching his long spidery arm across the table to hand me his bowl and ask for just “a little more broth on there, Cathy.” (He called us all Cathy.) And the end of the meal where he clicked his dentures off his jawbones so he could reach his tongue under to make sure he got all of his dinner swallowed. And then raising his eyebrows at me in a very conspiratorial way and starting to sing. “I wander today through the hills Maggie…”
But what really made me stop today, what really got my wheels turning, was when I started to wonder how my memories overlap with those of my siblings and my parents. And how do they differ? Memory is a tricky thing. I distinctly remember his brown pants, brown plaid button up shirt buttoned all the way up, and the wisps of white hair haphazardly arranged on the top of his head while he belted out “I wander” pause “today” pause breath “through the hills” breath “Maggie”. But what if it wasn’t even that song?
Our brains are steel traps. And we are stubborn. At the very least, with family, we are far less inclined to negotiate and will only cede a point to get to the larger point which we are not prepared to admit is incorrect or in any way different from the way we remember it. But what about things like tuna helper? Or pork chops? How do the others in my family remember these meals, or do they? Do they remember sitting at the table together, begging not to sit by the water cooler so we didn’t have to fill glasses? Or begging to sit in the back smooshed between the table and the wall so we didn’t have to get up to get milk, butter, more bread or whatever? Does Cak remember the time she refused to eat Macaroni & Cheese out of the pot when I was babysitting? Does my dad remember humiliating me with chicken skin?
I have other memories too, not just food. (I think I’m just particularly hungry right now, wonder why that could be?) How much do we remember from childhood and how much do we remember from the videos of our childhood. How lasting are the specifics of our youth if they are undocumented? And does that particularly matter if we are left with good feelings, good impressions, positivity? And how much does what we take from our experiences influence what we are willing and hoping to pass on?
I wonder what memories my husband will bring to the rearing of his child. I have hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes, he has cheesy peas and salmon patties. Together we have family dinners at the table. But we don’t have a table. I have playing in the rain, he has staying dry. I have holidays with big gatherings and lots of noise, he has 3 brothers that were out of the house by the time he was old enough to remember, a much quieter upbringing. I’ve roped him into some of the chaos, but I wonder how we will compromise for our baby. What memories are so important to us that we have to pass them on? What impressions will she remember? What will we find important enough to document? And what traditions will be lost?