Our custody agreement allows for one-on-one time with kids a few times a year. While I don’t particularly like separating them all that often right now as they lean on each other and find comfort in one another, it was a treat to have a little while to focus on each of them individually this month.
A couple weeks ago, I had Norah and we kept it pretty laid-back – playing a bit outside and satisfying her request for cheese quesadillas. But our big night out was a stop at the American Girl Bistro. She has a newer American Girl she got for Christmas last year from my mom, but she prefers my old one. I can remember setting up tea parties for Molly myself, reading the books, changing her clothes, taking her everywhere I went. It’s such a sweet moment to see my own daughter playing with a doll twenty years older than she is, a doll I adored so much when I was a kid and had no idea what real motherhood would look like for me one day.
I love making new memories with my kids that are intertwined with my own experiences I have filed in the back of my mind. It’s most noticeable on bigger experiences or notable moments like this one, but it sometimes washes over me in little moments, too. The other night, Norah fell asleep quickly, but Jude came down the stairs wide awake with a smirk asking if he could stay up with me as I was writing. I obliged, and I couldn’t help but remember my own similar late night hallway wanderings as a kid. Such a common memory and a common feeling, but it hits you in the face sometimes – the notion that I’m creating the memories my kids will harbor, creating the realities of their childhoods as well.
Jude and I got our turn this past weekend, and he requested a few dollars at the Lego store and some mall pizza, so I agreed. I let him choose the agenda for every step of our weekend, and I was again reminded about how easy he is to please. How joyful he is and how easy he is to be with. After our mall trip, I got another huge dose of nostalgia with a skating rink birthday party for one of his classmates. It was hilarious, first of all, to watch all these preschoolers on skates for the first time. (I mean, who roller skates anymore!?) But they were also playing old Michael Jackson and ABBA, and I think I heard some Journey and a couple 80’s ballads as well.
The lights and the carpet and the neon and the music – it all had me straight back to elementary school and skating rinks with orange cheese on stale nachos and the simple happiness of being with friends in that atmosphere. Watching him interact with his little friends is becoming more and more fun to watch as he grows. Even though they are young, it is real friendship, and I can see in my own mind’s eye the little faces and details of my own elementary school buddies.
The next morning, his request was a stop at our favorite donut spot (of course!) and a hike at the nature preserve a short drive from our house. It was perfect. It’s so rare to enjoy stillness and no demanding plans – especially in this current season of my life. And to enjoy this with only my oldest was even more special. He was so happy and so appreciative just to be dictating the day and to have my full attention without anyone else around. Truth be told, I was happy for it, too.
My pace is slowing down at work now that the semester is over, so today the kids and I spent some time at my grandparents. Their place is always where my nostalgia hits hardest through the lens of my kids. I can remember running the same property with my cousins when I was young, and now I watch my kids do the same thing. They are so happy when they play there – climbing trees, picking flowers. Coming inside is a terrible chore that I have to beg them to do. I can remember spending hours and hours outside with my sister and cousins when I was little, only coming in to eat or find the bathroom every now and then.
When we were there, my grandmother got the phone call that my great-aunt in Texas passed away this morning. It’s been something like three or four years since I’ve seen her, but when she was healthier, she’d make annual visits here each summer, bringing her crowd from Dallas with her. My already large family would multiply, and we’d have a potluck and tables of food spanning half the length of the yard. I see the phases of growing up in my memories of those summer meals – first as a kid running with my other cousins to find some entertainment, then as I grew and began to listen to a few adult conversations here and there, and finally to an age when I wanted to listen to stories and ideas from my older relatives.
She outlived her husband by eighteen years, and it warms me to think of their reunion on the other side. But I can also remember her laugh so well. Her raspy voice and her no-nonsense streak of humor. Her southern speech patterns that were just the tiniest bit different from most of the ones I grew up hearing. Her hilarious stories of raising four children who inherited her humor and mischief. I’ll miss just knowing she’s here – on this planet with the rest of us.
But who she is and what she was for me resides forever in the back of my mind, and I’m grateful for that. For my own stories that evolved from these characters and moments in my life. I hope, above all, that my kids feel the same sense of place one day – that they remember these details and feel the familiar comfort of nostalgia, too.