On Mother’s Day
The things I don’t remember…
I have discovered, recently, a terrific injustice that must be noted: The human brain begins to record the world – in the first ways it can sensibly recall and remember – right around the time the creature reaches adolescence. It’s only then that the mind matures sufficiently to begin to make notes, to keep memories. And while it’s true there are glimpses, fragments of memory from as early as two or three years old, the bulk of what we remember as adults, and the memories that stay with us, begin from about the age of thirteen.
At thirteen, children become self-absorbed, sulky, angry, hatchlings for a good number of years, on their way to becoming (thankfully) something else. By the time a child is thirteen years old, the mother has spent 4745 days making birthday cakes no one will remember, sewing Halloween costumes no one ever wore again, washing floors and windows that were dirty the next morning, and wrapping up sandwiches that were thrown in the garbage the moment the lunch bell rang.
By the time a child is thirteen she has no memory of the 2876 times her mother did her pony-tails right, but remembers the three times since her twelfth birthday that they were lopsided. By the time a child is thirteen he is mortified by the teddy bear wallpaper in his bedroom but cannot remember the weekend he spent on the floor with his mother flipping through wallpaper books and drinking sweet cups of tea with too much sugar. At thirteen the child begins to record all the parties she will not be allowed to go to, all the pairs of jeans her mother will insist are too tight, and all the cars she will not be allowed to drive in.
By the time the human brain begins to pay attention, the homemade playdoh is dried up, the walks to the park are boring, and no one believes in the Easter Bunny. By thirteen the magic is not only gone, but the mother is somehow (dare I say it) laughable.
But even then, the mother understands this change – this transition, this ridicule – as necessary; as the way it must be; as the pass that must be conquered, evidence of the strength necessary for the hatchling to find it’s way.
So today, I am both a mother and a hatchling that eventually arrived, and today I am thankful for photographs. Thank God for the pictures! There in the boxes of photos I’ve pulled out of the basement, there is evidence of picnics and Christmas ribbons on presents, of hand made outfits and messy haired mornings I have no memory of. Thankfully, though I have not myself kept track of all the home baked cookies and birthday parties, the snowmen and go-carts, the fishing trips and wiener roasts, the sleep-overs and new lunch-kits, the photographs have kept account of it for me. Who knew?
Who is this woman whose hands made all of this magic that I don’t even remember, whose ideas brought out the sunshine, whose energy made bottle drives and picking apples and raking leaves tolerable? She is not the woman that a sulky fifteen year old took much notice of, but she is the woman in the photos who stuck with it even when reading the story for the 46th time was mind-numbing.
She is my mother and today I am grateful for all of the things that I can’t remember, all of the things she did that no one said thank-you for. Because I guess that’s what mothers do. Maybe that’s why we have photographs, so that the good and strong things that our parents did are not forgotten.
Happy Mother’s day to my mom, Daisy. Thank you for all of the things I don’t even remember. I love you.