I’ve been working on a project this week. For my grandfather. And for me.
My grandpa’s birthday is coming up. We are celebrating with a party on Saturday. This party will be a little different because it will take place at the nursing home.
I am making him a scrapbook for his birthday.
The last time we’d been to visit grandpa, one of the nurses mentioned how much he adores the calendar I made for him last year with photos of Julia. She said he looks through it, many times a day, like it’s a book. She told me, “He really enjoys reading the captions you included. It helps him make sense of the pictures. I know he has a lot of photographs here, but I really think he could benefit from a scrapbook.”
At first I thought I’d do it for Christmas. That would give me plenty of time. But, time is something my grandfather does not have. He has been losing ground rather quickly. And so I began working on the scrapbook for his birthday.
My house is the storage place for our oldest family photos. I’ve been digging and sorting through them, choosing those that will be included, scanning, restoring, editing and printing them. Today, I finally began putting pages together. I’ve worked hard to keep them large and simple, so they are easy to see and follow. This is my first page.
It has been quite a task to try and piece together my grandfather’s memories. I remember sitting on my great-grandmother’s knee, looking at the photo albums I now call my own. She knew the name of every face and most of the dates. I regret that she took that knowledge with her when she passed away. I should have listened closer. I should have written it down.
I can’t tell you how many times I wish I’d recorded so many of the stories my grandpa told me growing up. I close my eyes and reach with all I’ve got, back, way back, to try and grab his words, so I can include them with the picture, to help him remember. I want him to remember the places he loved to go, the people he loved to be with, the things that made him proud and the happiness that has surrounded him most of his life.
And then there are the memories that have no photograph. And I wonder what treasures have been lost.
Suddenly, I am grateful for this pesky habit I have for recording things. For taking pictures and writing stuff down. Because it’s important to remember.
It is the nature of places that house families, in particular small children and animals, to tend toward disorder and chaos.
And so I wasn’t alarmed when I couldn’t immediately locate my iPod last Tuesday as it is rarely found in the spot I reserved for it on my bedside table or its designated compartment in my laptop case. Most often it is found on the coffee table or dining room table, wedged between the cushions on the couch or pinched between the sticky fingers of my music-loving toddler as she belts, “Oooh baby do ya know what dat’s worf! Ooooh Kevin is a place on earf!” out of her blue popsicle-tinged mouth.
The last time it went missing, it had slipped from its resting place atop the piano and sat quietly behind it, leaning casually against the wall until my hungry hands recovered it. This time, I fully expected to find it once I was motivated enough to actually look for it. It never occurred to me that it may have been taken rather than mislaid.
I have learned that the tendency toward the disorganization of the family home is the result of a force. And while I have yet to learn its name, it is immediately recognized and universally accepted by mothers everywhere. It is the force responsible for the missing sock phenomenon. It is why you can find 12 flat head screwdrivers when what you really need is a phillips. It is also the reason duct tape exists as it appears to be the closest we’ve come to discovering the equal and opposite reaction to The Force.
When I was a child, we humanized The Force by naming it Charlie. When things came up missing or there was something that couldn’t be explained logically, we blamed it on Charlie. Charlie turned on the lights. Charlie took all the E’s out of the Scrabble game. Charlie left us with seven blue socks and three red. I hadn’t thought about Charlie in a long time, but he quickly became a prime suspect when my missing items began to grow, in number and size.
By Thursday morning, the purple brush from the downstairs bathroom – the one I use to tame Julia’s tangled mane through the day – was no longer there. The photos from my recent ultrasound and the drawing Julia had made of the baby – the same items I had carefully placed with my pregnancy journal and placed somewhere way up high – were gone. The pictures I’d been given at playgroup earlier that week where nowhere to be found. Disturbed, I kept an eye out for the missing objects, rifling through drawers while I fixed lunch and opening cabinets during trips to the bathroom. I notified the rest of the family who agreed to be on the lookout.
It was Friday morning when my mild perturbation exploded into a raging inferno of fury and I declared an all out war on Charlie.
Julia and I were getting ready to head out for her Kindermusik class. At her first session the week before, she had received a backpack full of books, cds, an interactive play set and a yellow slide whistle. She’d carried her backpack and explored its contents often through the past week. The last I’d remembered, she’d left it on the piano bench, so that’s where I ran to grab her slide whistle – the very important item she was meant to take along to class. But it was not there. I stormed through the house, feverishly searching for the backpack. After fifteen minutes, we were out of time and had to leave in order to make it to class on time.
I spent the entire car trip trying to deduce where a 12 x 9 x 2 inch backpack could have possibly disappeared to in our house. “Where can it be? I just don’t get it. I looked everywhere,” I muttered to myself.
We made it to class, where Julia was the only child without her slide whistle and I could tell the other mothers were envisioning a trash heap of a house where junk is piled from floor to ceiling as I explained that we couldn’t find her backpack, since that is the only place you could possibly lose a nearly flourescent turquoise item approximately the size of a kid.
humiliation class was over, I raced home vehemently determined to solve the mystery of the missing iPod, backpack, et al. I enlisted the help of every spare family member I could find and we launched a house-wide, full-scale, two-hour search. I worked closely with Julia, since she’d been the last one to see most of the missing items. I questioned her carefully, remaining fully aware that while the evidence pointed most directly at her, it was just as likely that I misplaced the missing items by stuffing them in the oven or under the sink at the sight of recent unexpected visitors creeping up the driveway. Thankfully, she was agreeable and helpful, suggesting we check in her wagon and her play kitchen. She opened all the drawers in her playroom and emptied the contents of her toy boxes. But it was all for naught. The sun set on Friday and my belongings were still lost.
After a long, sleepless night where I lay awake envisioning Charlie punching a hole in our world and stealing my iPod and my ultrasound pictures much like the evil spirit stole Carol Anne in Poltergeist and wondering if my child might be next, and then falling asleep for a minute and dreaming about that girl from The Ring, I stumbled downstairs. I’d just sat down next to Dave when my mother rushed through the room saying, “It just occurred to me that I saw Julia playing over here the other day..”
She approached the hutch where we keep things like tape, glue, spare batteries, flashlights, emergency candles and Shoe Goo. And duct tape. She opened the door and pulled out a stack of papers that were too insignificant to file, but too important to throw away and began to pull at something. I stood up and moved closer. She was pulling at something…turquoise! It was the backpack! My mouth fell open. Dave gasped. My mom shouted, “I found it!”
“Is her slide whistle in there?” I asked, relieved to take the backpack off the missing list.
My mom opened the backpack and pulled out the slide whistle and held it high.
“Hurray!” I shouted.
She dug in the backpack again and pulled out my playgroup pictures. And then, the picture Julia had drawn of the baby. Next came the ultrasound pictures. And a purple hairbrush. And finally, my iPod.
We stood silent for a moment, soaking it all in. I called upstairs to Julia and she ran down from her playroom, slowing herself to a stop with about three stair steps to go. She eyed the backpack and the items lying all around it.
“We found your backpack,” I told her.
“Yeah,” a wicked smile crept across her face.
“Did you put it in there?”
“Did you forget that you put it in there?”
“No.” God Bless her, she was stealthy enough to ninja all that stuff away, but not wise enough to take the out I was giving her.
“What was it doing in there?”
“I was hiding it from you,” she giggled.
And that’s the story of how Julia was duct taped to the wall.
This piece of paper is very precious to me. It is a drawing by my three-year old Julia of the baby in my belly.
Yesterday was my mother’s 50th birthday. And I forgot.
I went through the entire day yesterday, with my mother who was home on vacation, without realizing it was her birthday.
It wasn’t until I settled into bed and began counting out the days of my pregnancy that it hit me. I drug myself out of bed and down to the family room where she was working (That’s right folks! She was doing WORK while ON VACATION, ON HER BIRTHDAY) and proceeded to apologize. And then SHE ended up trying to make ME feel better.
I feel just awful because if she forgot my birthday, I’d be upset. My mom told me, “Well, see how you feel when you’re 50. You really won’t mind.”
Mom, do you really know me at all? Of course I would mind. We’re talking about me – the very selfish and forgetful daughter. And did I mention selfish?
The thing that upsets me most about forgetting her birthday is this: I feel like it’s symptomatic of our entire relationship wherein I take her completely for granted. Well, not completely, but nearly completely.
My mom and I are very close. While most adults may consider their parents to be part of their extended family, my mother is very much a part of our immediate. It’s Dave, Julia, my mom and me. We are a family. Not only that, my mom and I are great friends. I can’t imagine my life without her and yet, I often fail to recognize the major role she plays in my daily life. I mean, who likes to try and imagine their life without one of the most important people in it? I don’t sit around thinking, “I wonder what it’d be like without my mom.”
But, I should be saying “Thank You” a whole lot more.
I could go on and tell you hundreds of stories about how fabulous my mom is and all amazing things she has done for me, but I think this says it all: Any time my mom gives me something or does something truly extraordinary for me (and I’m telling you, it’s often), she doesn’t want a thank you. She doesn’t want a pay back. She always tells me, “It’s enough to know that you’ll do the same for your children. You’re paying me back when you pay it forward to them.”
And so now I’m off to the store to gather ingredients that Julia and I will assemble and bake to form a cake we will all eat in honor of her yesterday birthday. But I still feel bad. Molly Ringwold got Jake Ryan for her forgotten birthday. All my mom is getting is cupcakes.
Would a belated birthday strip-o-gram be out of line?
This post comes courtesy of a tag from Suz. You may want to thank her. If it wasn’t this, it would have been a knock knock joke about being sick and tired.
Okay, now on with the meme!
4 Jobs I’ve Had
1. Receptionist for AAA – it was my very first job. I worked there the summer between high school graduation and college. I loved this job. I’m a kick-ass receptionist.
2. Staffing Specialist for Manpower – the job I liked most. I was really good at this job and very proud of the work I did. If ever I return to the working world, these are the people I’ll call first.
3. Business College Recruiter – it was the job I had when I got pregnant with Julia. I spent most of my days providing in-class presentations to high school seniors. I loved the high school kids. I loved public speaking. The company I worked for? Not so much.
4. Dispatcher for a snow removal company – my first at-home job. I was on-call and worked mostly nights – early morning (about 3 a.m. – 9 a.m.) the winter after I had Julia. It was a lot of fun and suited me well. I could breastfeed and play with Julia (we were usually up anyway) while I worked. It kept us afloat during some real hard financial times.
4 Films I Could Watch Again and Again
1. She’s Having A Baby
2. A Mighty Wind
3. Hope Floats
4. Napoleon Dynamite
4 TV Shows I Watch
2. The Office
4. Flight of the Conchords
4 Places I Have Lived
1. Templeton, Pennsylvannia
2. Cameron, West Virginia
3. Kent, Ohio
4. Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
4 Favorite Foods
1. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
2. Crunch ‘n Munch
3. Milk Duds
4. Salt ‘n Vinegar Chips
4 Websites I Visit Everyday
1. My own
3. My bank website
4. My web stats analyzers – Yeah, that’s right, blog-stalker-hate-e-mail-sender! I know who you are and all about when you visit and a bunch of other hoo ha junk. (P.S. My lawyer does, too. Just so you know.)
4 of my Favorite Colors
4 Places I’d Like To Be Right Now
1. In bed
2. With my husband
3. In bed with my husband
4. Sleeping in bed with my husband (yeah, I’m that tired.)
4 Names I Like But Wouldn’t or Couldn’t Use Myself
4. Chocolate Thunda
I’m so behind on my blog reading, I’m not sure who to tag. If you want it, you got it!