Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Things I Don't Remember

Most of you know already how many members of my family are runners. In my opinion, they're nuts but they seem to love it...My sisters and cousins on both sides push themselves to run for miles and miles, participating in marathons, duathalons and triathlons. I, on the other hand, couldn't run 10 steps to escape from a hired assassin but I do try to get my exercise anyway. I love to work out and while I don't run very much I spend a lot of time at the gym. I've been trying to take advantage of the terrific weather we've had this summer by getting outside and I found a trail that winds around a small lake, through some wooded areas and around a couple of kiddie parks.

Things have really perked up there the last few weeks, birthday parties, football practice, people fishing, biking, walking...and yes, running. The other day, I saw a young dad teaching his daughter how to ride a 2 wheeler. She had a sparkly pink helmet on and her bike had all the fancy accoutrement's from handle bar streamers to a purple flag on the back.. It was classic, he ran behind her, holding onto the back until she got up some speed and then let go, keeping up with her, yelling encouragement and hiding the fact that he was no longer holding on to the back of her seat. She would squeal as she started to wobble and Dad would catch her before she could fall. I walked around that section of the park several times and they were still at it every time I passed them, gradually moving from the grass to the paved path as she gained confidence and skill.

While I was watching them, I felt happy and I thought back to my own six kids, all of whom were with me through the learning-to-ride-a-bike-years. The funny think is, I couldn't remember teaching any of them how to ride a bike...I remember buying them bikes for birthdays and Christmases, picking them out when the kids were little and looking for the requested model when they got older. Now, it could be that I actually didn't teach any of them how to ride a bike, they mostly grew up with me, their father and Momo in constant attendance so maybe I just wasn't the one that did that job, but it got me thinking....I've know for a long time that my memories of my marriage and my children's childhood were incomplete. I began to realize it one day, many years ago at Grandma's house. There was a picture of the cutest baby, about 6 months old on her mantle. I asked who it was and was shocked to discover that it was my own youngest child, Katie. At that moment, I realized that I had taken so few pictures of her during her babyhood that I had no reference point and that I actually didn't remember what she looked like. (Katie, if you're reading this, I'm sorry and you know I love you so very much....)

Over the years, I have realized more and more things that I don't remember, I remember very little about the 18 months that we lived in Omaha, that whole time is sort of a hazy blur. The almost 10 years that I spent in Oklahoma is marked mostly by the different jobs that I had and pictures. I actually thought I had a lot of memories of when my kids were young. I've come to realize lately that those memories aren't real memories of events that happened, like Birthdays, first days of school etc but rather what I am remembering is seeing a picture of that event...

I've been such a picture hound for the last 20 years, looking at pictures over and over again, putting different ones up on the fridge, keeping old pics around forever. I always just thought that I liked pictures but I now know that what I was doing was trying to develop a working knowledge of my own life. I remember the Christmas that Jessie got the Barbie makeup table because there's a picture of her sitting at it in her Barbie night gown. I remember the birthday parties that Grandma and Grandpa came to because there was always a picture of them with the kids.

Not to say that I don't remember anything, I do remember a lot. Most of it is stuff that any sane and normal human being would choose to forget though. I remember everything that was bad and hurtful, I remember when the kids were sick or hurt or when something went terribly wrong. I remember being scared, worried, helpless and powerless. I remember when Kyle had strep that settled in his joints and he couldn't move for days and no doctor could tell us why. I remember when I picked Jessie up by her arm and dislocated her elbow, when she choked on a piece of candy from Santa and when I rolled the car window up on her head...(Sorry baby, you seemed to be accident prone) I remember taking Katie to the doctor because she had no hair and finding out that she had Loose Andogen syndrome (which she has since outgrown).

So why is it that I can only remember the bad stuff, and that I seemed to be in a coma when anything good happened? Even when I look back at videos from then, I seemed to be made from stone. I never smiled or laughed and I could only be touched by worry or fear. Why would any person choose to toss out the good memories and keep the bad ones? I suppose I could spend thousands of dollars on therepy to find out why I am the way I am, maybe I'll even get back some of those memories. For now, it's enough that I'm starting to understand some things about myself and I'm not at all anxious to find out why. That would just bring up too many questions that I don't really want answers for.

For now, I've been thinking back a lot, grasping at small memories and trying to make them grow. I might remember buying a certain dress for one of the girls, so I try to expand that, and remember what it was for, when it was worn and what we did when she was wearing it. I remember taking the kids to see Meemaw in their Halloween costumes every year, so I've been looking for the memories of making those costumes, going trick or treating and carving pumpkins. It's working a little bit, I'm getting some stuff back a little bit at a time and since I spend so much time every day in the car, I have a lot of time to dedicate to the project. I think we all just need to sit down together for a good healthy dose of "Remember that time...." Luckily, I get the kids for Christmas this year so we'll have a chance to do that. Maybe, if I'm lucky I'll be able to get their childhood back.


  1. Sounds pretty normal to me. Those awful times are etched deep only because they were so awful. The average times the represent 99% of our lives are barely scratched into our memories. Pictures always bring back bits and pieces for me, but the emergency room trips and those awful stressful times are easy to remember. Remember that raising 6 kids forces a six fold dilution and just having six kids there makes that dilution 6 fold higher just from the work of it. Keep in mind that these times with adult or at least pre-adult children are just as valuable and probably more important. Now you have time to focus on each of the kids on an individual basis. It's a good time to be in.

  2. Powerful post sis. Glad you are finding enough time to be able to get inside your head a bit. I think that's really important. Our busy lives sometimes prevent that but a good, healthy "think" is always a wise investment in yourself. And I agree with UD, photos are a HUGE part of my memory. I don't find that so very strange. Best of luck with your retrieval.

    Member that time that I came to visit you at college? And I disappeared for a while with Tommy Bell and you were thinking all sorts of panicked thoughts when really we were just watching a movie in the basement? Doesn't have anything to do with your kids but it's a memory I still have. :)

  3. Katie says that I taught both her and Jessie to ride a bike at the same time, Jessie peddled and Katie sat on the back. I still don't remember but Jessie must have been very talented to learn how to ride a bike with someone already on the back!

    And I don't really remember when you came to see me in college, although that was probably helped by my consumption of a couple of different mind altering chemicals....

  4. As always- your writing is thick- so dense with ideas- that I have to come back- and read- and reread- to find the truth you write.
    Memory is so funny (I actually can probably tell more of the "stories" of Sarah, Matthew, Mary and Michael- than even Don- because we spent so many hours telling each other of our lives apart).
    And I'm always facinated by the stories my elderly patients remember- and want to tell- the men always talk of THE WAR- and the women- THE CHILDREN.
    You're idea of creating- and recreating- stories around the pictures- and telling them again- while you drive- or walk- or whatever- is such a beautiful way to bring back the STORIES you want to take to your old age- the STORIES you'll tell to that nurse sitting next to you in your living room.