Remembering

I’ve been thinking about Good-byes a lot recently. This weekend we said good-bye to our refrigerator, dated “1994” if I researched it correctly (it came with our house), the first major appliance Daniel and I had to replace since we got married. Three years ago at about this time I said good-bye to my sister-in-law.

This past weekend I said good-bye to one of my grandmothers. My grandmother’s seven children gathered with their sons and daughters and their sons and daughters to say good-bye to one of the most gracious and loving women I’ve known.

carnations
carnations from the service representing myself and my children

I was asked to share memories about my grandmother with the eldest grandchild who gave a tribute at the memorial service. It is much to my embarrassment that I have the memory of a goldfish. Generally speaking, if I don’t have a picture of an event, I’m likely not to remember it, especially not the nitty-gritty details. (Why do you think I have a blog? So I can remember the details of my life.)

And so my memories of Grandma blur together into a prolonged segment of eating ice cream and Lucky Charms (a forbidden food at home) at her kitchen counter, playing games (especially Uncle Wiggly), Sunday evening visits, several overnight stays, Christmas gatherings, and poolside treats – especially watermelon.

But what I don’t remember in details concerning dates and times and specific events, I do make up for in remembering through feelings. So while I can’t tell you that Grandma and I listened to a particular song on a particular date and that was very meaningful to me, what I can tell you about Grandma is that she was gracious.

Gracious…. one of the words I frequently heard used to describe Grandma last weekend. I don’t remember Grandma ever being in a bad mood; she was always quick to smile. Nor do I remember her being judgmental. Her words were filled with concern and care, not criticism and discouragement. Her love for Jesus was evident in everything she did, yet it was also humble and modest, never pushy. Generosity and hospitality flowed in her veins. You never went home hungry from Grandma’s, even if you just stopped in for a 15 minute visit.

And even though I don’t think she ever sat and made a craft with me or took me to a theme park, I was special and loved at Grandma’s house. I was cared and cooked for at Grandma’s house. I was welcomed and hugged at Grandma’s house.

As a mother, I spend lots of time wondering if I do enough with my kids. Do I play enough games, read enough books, make enough crafts, take them to the park/library/friends’ houses enough, make holidays/birthdays special enough? What will my kids remember from their childhood?

But maybe all that stuff isn’t as important as Pintrest and Parents magazine would like me to believe it is. Maybe the question shouldn’t be whether or not my kids will remember doing fun stuff with me. Maybe the real question is what do I want them to remember when they think of me?

If they don’t remember making cut-out cookies at Christmas, or trips to Chocolate World, or reading 20 books together on sick days, or playing Trouble/Sorry/Memory/The Ladybug Game after supper, that’s ok with me. (I have pictures of all that. I can remind them that I wasn’t a total slacker.)

But… when they do think of their childhood, I hope they are flooded with remembrances of my smile, my concern, and my generosity. I hope they remember a mother who told them regularly that nothing they could ever do would make me or Jesus love them less. I hope they remember a soft place to fall.

If that’s what they remember, I will be more than happy.

 

 

“One hundred years from now

It will not matter

What kind of car I drove,

What kind of house I lived in,

How much I had in my bank

Nor what my clothes looked like.

One hundred years from now

It will not matter

What kind of school I attended,

What kind of typewriter I used,

How large or small my church,

But the world may be…

a little better because…

I was important in the life of a child.”

― Forest Whitcraft

 

 

Two Can Play

Picture day… one of the most frustratingly irritating days of the year. In general, I detest it, almost to the point of foregoing it altogether.

The last minute realization that pink crocs aren’t the best choice of footwear to go with a red dress, locating clean tights and dark socks, checking fingernails, cleaning glasses, and pressing dress shirts is the pits. (And no, I’m sure this has nothing to do with my apparent lack of thinking through that there’s more to an outfit than a co-ordinating top and bottom.)

last minute
searching for suitable shoes the morning of the appointment

Years ago, it was simple. Barefoot was cute; a hair out of place was tastefully adorable. My biggest worry was getting the kid to the studio without spit up marring a freshly laundered outfit.

Once we were there, my kids were a photographer’s dream…smiling, cooing, laughing, clapping… until they were 18 months old.

All of a sudden, they hated picture day as much as I did. We’ve got pictures of Alice where I’m in the picture too, covered by a sheet to keep her from wailing, and a similar session of Ian wrapped in his blanket while sucking his fingers.

Alice slowly outgrew her reservations of picture sessions. Ian, on the other hand, has only become more of a squirt about the whole thing. Around two years old, he started refusing to smile for all pictures… in a studio and at home.

At first, I thought he was being shy. I thought the more I hounded him about it, the more it might give him a complex. I was right. The more attention I brought to his smile-less state, the more he refused to look at the camera, many times running from me if I had a camera.

camera shy

After a bit, he decided making a funny face for a picture was exciting, and we were finally! able to get some decent pictures of him smiling at home by saying he had to give us a nice smile first, then we’d take a funny-face picture.

funny face

This worked, but was time consuming, not a tactic we were able to use this past August during the first formal family photography session we’ve had since 2009. We spent much of that session coaxing him to give us the slightest smile on that sizzling hot August day. In the end, we got a picture of him looking at the camera, but not an ounce of smile on his face… ugh.

When February rolled around, it was time for Ian’s five year portraits, but the dread of begging and pleading for a simple smile made me put it off until late April, when I finally decided to bite the bullet and get the pictures taken in honor of Mother’s Day. I usually get a shot of the kids together too, so Alice was aware that she was going along.

“Ian,” she said to him the day before the appointment, “tomorrow we’re going to the picture place and getting our pictures taken. I’m so excited.”

Ian’s reply caught me off-guard.

“I’m not! going to smile,” he said emphatically.

Wwwhhaatt? Here I’ve spent the last three years thinking Ian’s lack of smiles was attributed to shyness, however this statement lead me to believe it may be him being stubborn… no trauma, no complex, just strong-willed. Really… am I that naïve? (My husband would answer with a quick yes.)

A note on my pillow after choir practice that evening confirmed it. I had been duped… for years.

note
Ian will not cooperate on picture taking day.

That night, I decided two can play this game. It was time to break out the big guns.

Before we left for the appointment, I told the kids if they cooperated and smiled nicely, they could each have 10 additional minutes playing computer games that afternoon. If they didn’t smile nicely, there would be no computer games at all… nada. They got the message, loudly and clearly… mom meant business.

As for me, I was rewarded with beautiful pictures of two smiling, adorable kids holding hands and acting like they’ve never fought a minute in their lives. (Thank you PBS Kids!) Back at home, I also got an additional 20 minutes of alone time as the kids enjoyed their added computer time. This is what I call a win-win situation.

reward

There was one slight problem, one that I haven’t experienced since Ian was a snuggly six month old sporting his bare, pudgy belly and diaper clad bottom. The pictures were so refreshingly good, narrowing down the selection was a painstaking process.

 

60CNext time, I’ll keep the computer bribe, but take along a non-partisan party to help me pick out the pictures… and keep me on budget.

Happy Mother’s Day – from a mom who’s hopefully growing a little wiser with each passing year… maybe.