I’m driving and my attention is on the road, but with three kids in the backseat, my rearview mirror glances award me more than a road view. I’m watching you. You are joking with your sister and brother. I hear you. Your laughter is a delight. You are funny, but your words quickly become cutting. I don’t know why. Your little brother is growing a thick skin. I give you reminders to be kind, and tell you to stop. And then I watch as you decide to put your hands out your window. All I see is your hands raised to the sky, and I know that feeling: the air pushing on you, the wind so loud. Your hair is blowing from your face, and I wonder what is happening in your mind. I’m hoping you are feeling peaceful with the white noise, and the chance to let go of impulse control and just breathe. The next time I glance back you have a water bottle hanging out of the window too, and you are experimenting with drops. They are falling out of the bottle directly into the car. You have invented a misting air conditioner, and nobody else in the backseat seems to mind. I wonder about the water since I can’t see it leaving the bottle, but I can see it on your face and hair, and I can hear your brother and sister laugh as you say “Our own rainstorm!” I’m proud of myself. I smile at your antics, and your joy. Checking myself, I don’t feel an urge to have you stop.
We turn down the road that leads to the coffee shop, and suddenly your brother and sister complain loudly, “Ugh!” and “He dumped the rest of his slushy out the window!” and “It’s all over the car!”
I’m annoyed, and I’m sure the drive through barista thought it was weird, but that’s okay. I decided that it’s no big deal. My annoyance is easily forgotten if I just picture you: hands out the window, hair blowing in the breeze.
It’s a long story, why everyone needed a bike at the same time –Why we ended up at the store even after other, more sustainable, cheaper options were suggested. But that’s where we were. All the other shoppers looked at me like I was crazy – buying 4 bikes at once. I wanted to explain to each evil eye: “My bike was stolen 2 years ago! My daughter’s bike is too small and broken! My 8 year old has been riding my hand me down bike for 2 years! It has no gears! My 5 year old tried a goodwill bike last year and it wouldn’t pedal, and the training wheels bent…” But instead, I smiled and laughed at us… the kids riding their bikes to the checkout, me wheeling mine while I shouted after them.
“Be careful! Slow down!”
Even the woman ringing up our purchase seemed mad. I told her that the Assembler had told us my youngest son’s bike was $50, not $80. Even after her manager gave her the go ahead to charge us $49.95, she scoffed at us, annoyed, I guess, that I was getting a better bargain on my smallest bike purchase.
The next day we strapped our bikes on to the van, and headed to a nearby bike path with my sister, Aunt Awesomeness. After a small mishap of using the bike rack incorrectly (Note: don’t strap it to the window!) we were on our way. Aunt Awesomeness kept up with the big kids while I followed E. He was a trooper for 5 whole miles on his training wheels, and this is the true slice I want to remember: My bike ride with E.
I tried not to bump into him when he slowed down, and I tried to limit my yelling of “Be careful!” as much as possible. I tried to teach him how to use his brakes on the downhills, and how to keep pedaling on the uphills. I tried not to scream as he gained speed going down the steep parts, and not to cry when he fell. I told him it was okay to fall, and that he needed to get back on. (I only took a picture of the fall after he was okay. I promise.)
I breathed it in: the beautiful day and his little voice calling to me from his bike:
“This uses energy!”
“Is this exercise?”
“This isn’t motorized so it didn’t use gas.”
“Doesn’t this feel like we are going across the country? And I’m not even thirsty yet!”
….(5 minutes later…) “I need a break. I’m thirsty.”
“Did you see me going down that hill? It’s as fun as LEGOS! Even funner.”
I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Check it out here. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!
My childhood memories themselves are slices. I wish I could remember more details- but I know that all of my experiences, whether I remember them or not are part of who I am, and what I know. I have small pebbles of memories. I can close my eyes and see my mom picking me up from preschool, after she dyed her hair. (I was nervous about it, cried I think.) I can remember riding on the back of her motorcycle for the short block home from the babysitter. (Not nervous, just excited.) I can remember waking up in the middle of the night, and calling for my mom and dad, worried about the dark where ghosts and robbers and fire lived.
The memory of my first childhood house comes with unidentifiable senses: It is just a feeling of remembering… a long dark wooden library table, an old couch with the handmade quilt covering the back, the small white kitchen table, the hall closet full of games, my primary-colored room with low bookshelves full of books. My memories are infused with a huge feeling of love. I had a great childhood! I dressed barbies in clothes my mom made for them, and wore a “Little House on the Prairie” dress she made for me. I remember talking to my mom all the time. We must have talked all day, and I know we had special talk time at night when we snuggled cozy before I fell asleep. I’m sure my mom had so much to do, and that she probably wanted to spend some time with my dad. I know that she had shows that she wanted to watch, and work and cleaning and crocheting to do. But she always had time for me. She listened, she told me jokes and stories, sang me songs and taught me all along the way.
As soon as I became a mother, and ever since, I’ve wondered how I can do for my kids what my parents did for me. How can I teach my kids all the important things? How can I reassure them about all their fears, when sometimes I still call my mom and dad for reassurance? How can I give them a childhood full of songs and stories? I’m not at home with my kids for even a fraction of the time my mom was home with me, and I’m certainly not as patient. I am still learning how to sew, and you should see my failed birthday cupcakes!
We live very close to my parents. When people find this out, they usually say some variation of “Wow! Built-in babysitters! So lucky!” This is true. My parents watch my kids not only for date nights, but also in sudden times of urgent need. In fact, just today, in between all the other things she had to do, my mom took my daughter to piano to help our schedule. I am lucky.
At a certain point in time, my mom decided that she wanted to help us during our morning craziness. She comes most mornings, makes breakfast for the kids, helps them get dressed and ready for the day while my husband and I finish packing lunches, getting ready for our day, etc. When people hear this, their “you’re so lucky” exclamations get even louder. I am lucky. I’m lucky because mornings are crazy and any help with breakfasts and socks and shoes and packing schoolbags is heaven sent. But this week, I realized again that the convenience and help isn’t what makes me blessed.
I’m blessed because as I’m getting ready for school, and all the mundaneness that entails, I get to listen as my kids get granny time. She tells them jokes and listens to theirs. She brings them gifts of crocheted hats and scarves and fixes their clothes. She braids my daughters hair (I can’t seem to get the hang of a french braid) and listens to the dreams everyone had the night before. She tells them the same stories of her childhood that I remember her telling me. Through these stories and songs and daily conversations, my kids are getting more than a shadow of my childhood – they are getting a bright link to my childhood. I feel it makes my memories alive for them in a way that wouldn’t be possible without their close connection to my parents. I hope they know how lucky they are.