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Lucky Me

Daisy and I like to play cards together sometimes when we are just sitting together at the kitchenette. She is getting very good at some of the easier ones. Junior would prefer to play Solitaire and likes to spread out his cards on the floor in front of him as he is watching TV. Steve plays poker occasionally with the guys in our neighborhood. I don’t mind when they disappear into someone’s rec room for a night of cards, but I don’t like the smell of cigars and that seems to go hand in hand with the playing. I have never figured out why. Of course, my group plays cards every couple of weeks during the school year and only breaks when the children are out for the holidays and vacation. I enjoy the conversation before and after the games. Some of my girlfriends can get pretty serious when playing and don’t like a lot of chit chat while the game is going on. It’s probably something about focus. I don’t mind winning or losing. I guess I just enjoy the social aspects.

Lucy wanted a story about luck for St. Patrick’s day. I was a little blocked about what to write and was probably being overly introspective about the meaning of fortune. I feel very fortunate in my life. Good husband, good kids, good friends, good life. I wondered more about how we decided we had met our expectations more than what the expectations were. I didn’t think it was just luck that was driving me along. I decided to do the only right thing. I called Chloe and invited her to join me for lunch at the Chinese restaurant in town. Chloe laughed a little when I asked her to join me. We had never gone there together before and truthfully, I only stopped there sometimes to get take out as a treat for the family.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of the restaurant as we entered. It was more exotic than my kitchen smell. Warmer too. The intense heat needed to cook was most likely the reason for the humidity in the air. We took our seats and Chloe started to read the menu. She said the columns made her dizzy. I ordered tea for both of us figuring that would give us more time to choose. When the lovely waitress returned and poured our tea for us, I stopped and asked her what she recommended. Chloe listened intently as she quickly mentioned a few favorites of most customers. I figured that the favorites she told us about were safe choices that she thought we would like. Chloe gave up and ordered the last item she mentioned. I know that Chloe had no idea what she had just ordered from the look of her face and the shrug of her shoulders. I told the waitress that I felt lucky and asked her to surprise me. Before she left the table, she asked us if we wanted an appetizer. Chloe looked at me and decided to follow my lead. She said yes and surprise us with that also.

This was going to either be great or awful. Cooking for a family every day gives you the advantage of knowing what you are going to eat for every meal. I could never imagine just coming home and sitting down to a mystery that someone else had prepared. We enjoyed our tea and it seemed special with the little traditional cups and teapot. The appetizer was delivered and did not look like anything I could identify because they were little dumplings that sat upright. There were some dipping sauces also. The waitress told us to just try them when we looked at her quizzically.  Chloe went first and dipped one into a sauce daintily. She closed her eyes and took a bite. Her face was a mixture of surprise and interest. Chloe said that it was good and encouraged me to try too. I did and tried enough of the little pockets of dough to try both dipping sauces. They were delicious. The meat inside was finely ground and tasted good but I still didn’t know what it really was. I just knew it tasted yummy.

When it came time for the entrees, the waitress brought out Chloe’s and what must have been the cook brought out the other. He was dressed in an apron and had covered his hair to work in the kitchen. He put the dish down in front of me and I looked at it trying to figure out what it was. There were some noodles, some vegetables, some shrimp and some kind of sauce. He told me eat and repeated himself when I hesitated. As I started to pick up a fork, he gently placed his hand on mine and handed me some chopsticks. I have never been very talented with chopsticks but I did not want to disrespect the gentleman. He formed my fingers around them and motioned for me to bend forward and dive in. I did. It was a little messy but I eventually got it down well enough to pick up some food and get it into my mouth. It was delicious and I looked up at him and smiled. He clapped his hands and returned to his work. Chloe laughed at me but took a few tries with her chopsticks also, although she went back to eating with a fork because she said she was too hungry to worry about how she was eating.

After the delicious meal, some fortune cookies and ice cream were delivered to the table. We hadn’t ordered dessert but the waitress told us that the cook wanted us to have them because we had trusted him to make our lunch. It all came down to trust. We opened the cookies and read our fortunes and found reasons to believe them. More trust. I wrote my paper on the luncheon experience and Lucy told me that she was going to go to the same restaurant and do the same thing we did. Choose to trust. Maybe that’s why Steve just sits down at the table and never asks me what we are having for dinner. I guess after all this time, he trusts my cooking. I guess he’s just lucky that way.

Don’t Read Me A Story

Being good at many things is natural for most people. Determining what those things are is usually more difficult. I never thought about writing earlier in life. Nobody ever thought anything I had ever done was worth mentioning. I was a “serious” child according to my family’s mythology and read a lot. I remember one year when my secret goal was to read every orange-bound book in our neighborhood library. They were the biographies and I loved reading about how other people navigated through life. Most of our school lives were superseded by world events and the little bit of fun we managed to have in high school were mostly stolen away moments. Life seemed bigger than us; what we did was less important on the individual scale. I wanted Junior and Daisy to grow up knowing what they were good at. They were very different and were good at their own things. If they had some recognition about what their skills were, they could make better choices earlier in terms of college and careers. I wanted them both to go father than Steve and I had gone. Opportunities were limitless if you knew what you wanted.

I always go to any event at school that involves helping out in the off chance that I could glean some information from talking to one of the children’s  teachers. Junior’s teachers were good about sending home a note when he wasn’t working up to par or some other weird event occurred. I hadn’t heard much from Daisy’s teachers yet but she seems to like school and goes without complaint. When the Mother’s Club decided to have a spring drive to collect books, I thought it would be a good event to help out with. We could clear out some used books at the same time we cleaned out the bookcase. I asked Junior to come and tackle his collection to have his input on what we didn’t think he would read again. We started by taking all of his books off of the shelves and sorted and stacked them. Junior gave away some books easier than others. I realized when we were done and ready to box the books that he had given up more adventure books and kept the biographies. I even asked him again if he had sorted the piles correctly. Eventually I had to ask why he had wanted to keep the books about people. His answer was simple and to the point. Junior said that he liked reading about real people more than fake people. It was a good description of how he felt about fiction. I could identify with liking real people more. I let Junior place his treasures back on the shelves while I took the donation box out to the car.

The next day, I arrived at school to help the other mothers sort through books and prepare them to go to the donation center. There was a huge selection of books. It really made me think about the importance of keeping a better supply of books available for the children. When school was over, I drove Junior and Daisy over to the book store. Instead of heading right to my favorite parts of the displays, we went back to the children’s section and I told the kids to pick out some books. They immediately wanted to know how many. I wanted to leave that question unanswered to see what their response would be so I just told them that we would discuss how many they could buy after they looked around. It must be a natural habit for younger people to just open a book, get comfortable and start reading. In about three minutes, both of them were on the floor enjoying different books. Each was examined with some secret definition of whether it would make the cut. After a few minutes of standing, I finally gave up and joined them on the floor, checking out my own choices. The saying that books can’t be judged by a cover may be true, but it is pretty much the way we decide to look inside of one. Junior had a small stack next to him of possible choices and Daisy was slowly picking through the books at her level. After about 30 minutes, I told the children to start to wrap up their decisions. There were two groans, which I interpreted as a good sign. There was some last minute horse trading between a couple of titles, but each child ended up with three books. I thought that was a good sign; not greedy or frivolous and manageable reading. We purchased the books and headed home.

After dinner time was quiet that night and both Junior and Daisy disappeared into their rooms to get in some extra bedtime reading time. Steve asked me if they were sick but I explained that we had bought some new books and the reaction on his face was a mixture of surprise and pride. One of the most heart-warming feelings of parenting is knowing you have good kids. It gives you a sense of relief to know you haven’t completely messed them up. I also liked that the children were identifying what interested them. I was going to start paying closer attention to these choices to understand where their paths were headed. I didn’t want their everyday choices to go unnoticed. In the end, I realized that books are very personal choices. What makes one more intriguing than another is our own point of view. It’s nice to know that my own young children are developing their own tastes.

Spring Forward

It’s March and I could not keep my hat on my head. The winds have been so strong this month that every time I walked across campus I ended up with one hand on my hat and one on my bag carrying my books. I felt as if I was being pushed from behind by some mean spirit that wanted me to hurry along. I was ready for my midterms and had worked steadily on my writing projects. I expected to do well in the open book test and still wondered why life couldn’t have an open book for me to consult. I know I would get a better grade in motherhood if I could research some answers with an expert.

The result of all the blowing wind were pockets of discarded debris at the corners of walkways as the forces cleaned up the open spaces. Little piles of leaves waited patiently for the spring clean up crew to neatly scoop them up and toss it all away. My spring cleaning schedule was packed with tasks and I had made a little chart to complete it all over the course of the month. Each bedroom would require a thorough cleaning and the kitchen and bathrooms each got their own days. Getting behind the living room furniture was scheduled for a Saturday so Steve could move the big stuff. Steve was also beginning to get that itch to start cleaning up outdoors and lingered at the picture window plotting his attack on the lawn. As soon as the weather improved enough, he would be out there discussing what products to spread on his green carpet. The changing weather also kindled his need to clean off his clubs and start swinging them around to see if he could overextend his shoulder before even hitting the course.

As I was carrying out a box of old clothes for donation, Steve took the box and put down his driver. It was shiny; that man can clean. I joked that I wished we could just open all the windows and doors to let the wind blow the whole house clean. Steve let me know that he and Harold were going to go hit some balls at the practice tees. I told him that his idea sounded like fun and a great way to warm up. My quick agreement may have thrown him off a little and he asked me if I minded that they were going to practice. I gave Steve a kiss on the cheek and told him to enjoy himself. As I turned and went back to the door I reminded Steve of his Christmas present. It registered on his face just as I was turning back around. He remembered we were going to start playing golf together. There was a mixture of emotions on his face. I tried not to judge him too harshly and went into the house.

I went back to my next cleaning project. Later, I sat down at the kitchenette and picked up one of my clubs that I had brought inside earlier from my bag. Yes, spring cleaning is getting done this year. I’ve got to make some time for my golf game.

The Sighting of the First Robyn

Babies have their own mysterious clocks. One day, a pregnant woman is busily cleaning every nook and cranny of the closet and the next day, a pudgy stranger who looks mildly familiar is staring back at her. Little Robyn arrived after a long night of labor for Edie. A happy, healthy baby girl who cried joyfully upon her arrival. When Edie was settled back in her room, Artie made a call to the name Edie gave him and we all got the news. Artie started handing out cigars, the appropriate response for new fathers. Baby Robyn was tended to by no-nonsense nurses who rolled the bassinet down to Edie’s hospital room every 3 hours on schedule to promote lactation. Exhausted Edie held court in a flower filled room dressed in a quilted bed jacket of light green satin. I noticed that she had already combed her hair and held it back with a sunshine yellow headband. I visited at the same time as Mags and we snuck in a small stash of cigarettes and matches in case Edie needed them. Edie had endured a lot of heartburn at the end of her pregnancy and wanted mostly to eat. While Edie spent the next few days at the hospital, Artie visited daily, always bringing a large bouquet of flowers. The smell in her room was funereal but the flowers looked pretty.

For the first few days after Edie came home, we took turns going over as Artie returned to work. This way, Edie would be able to bathe and change her clothes without worry. Robyn was adorable with a tiny cupid’s bow mouth and dark blue eyes under little wisps of blonde hair. On the day I spent with Edie, she came out of the bedroom with tears in her eyes while I rocked the baby. Edie admitted to having some sad feelings and thought it might just be because she missed Artie. The blues aren’t unusual after having a baby and most of the women I knew admitted to having some moments of sadness after they came home from the hospital. Gail always denied having any baby blues with any of her three, but Gail is like our Mother Earth figure. I am sure the nights were harder but Edie wasn’t complaining and she kept the baby nearby at night for ease. I told her that I used to vacuum holding my babies when they wouldn’t stop crying. I told her that the sound of the vacuum drowned out both my crying and the babies’ tears. Eventually, our moods lightened and the carpets went back to their regular cleaning schedule.

New mothers are supposed to be happy and pleasant. The real truth behind the facade was there were feelings of inadequacy, sleep deprivation and fear that you didn’t know what you were doing. A new mother’s body often felt flabby and very much like a cow expected to produce copious amounts of milk. I remember not being able to get into my girdle for weeks. I reminded Edie that she could talk to any of us who had babies previously about her feelings but she shooed me off. I just wanted her to know that it was safe to be real, but so hard to do. I know that Edie will be okay; we mothers always are. Just the same, I think I’ll be attentive a little longer using that beautiful baby as a good excuse to visit more often. Edie had a lot of experience with romance, so once she fell completely in love with her new baby, she could write her own love story for Robyn.

 

 

 

The Good Wife’s Guide

As predicted, most of the male students in my writing class wrote about war experiences they had or heard about. One brave guy wrote about his boot camp team’s loss in a war games. His report started a whole discussion on how to call war preparation a “game.” I didn’t want to read my report out loud so when I turned it in, I placed a note on it requesting anonymity. My title was “Sealed with a Kiss” and featured  Steve as a crusader for the rights of women who wanted to shovel snow without being directed by embarrassed men not to do so. Not a revolutionary fantasy but I was determined to keep the fiction as real as possible. I didn’t keep it so real to allow Steve to read it before turning it in though. I got an A and was pretty flattered by Lucy’s notes in the margins. I had started a file for my finished stories. I wanted to keep them for a review and as a collection of my work.

Junior had added Superman to his list of current fantasy heroes and wore a t-shirt with the big S logo every time it was clean. At dinner, I asked him what made a man super and Junior talked about Superman’s ability to fly and see through things and fool people in his disguise. When he was done listing Superman’s qualities, I asked my question differently by asking what made his daddy a super man. Both Daisy and Junior giggled. When Junior realized that Steve and I were just staring back at him and not laughing, he got quiet. Now we really had his attention.

Following a little stammering, Junior said that Steve had a regular job like Clark Kent and liked a lady who wrote stories at the newspaper who was always finding trouble. I wasn’t sure if the description of Lois was based on me so I lifted my eyes to give Junior a better look. I asked if Steve had any other traits that matched a super hero. Junior thought for a moment and said that Steve’s comings and goings were always special. I guess the real Superman flying in to admiration and leaving with a lot of attention caught Junior’s attention. Junior went on to explain that his daddy always made sure to stop and say good-bye to him every day with some special send off. When Steve returned after work there was always a conquering hero welcoming with hugs and kisses. Yes, Steve comings and goings were special. I tried hard not to compare mine since I was usually around more of the time and the children didn’t see me leave.

I knew that I could improve my comings and goings, starting with Steve. Sometimes, I don’t stop for that split second to appreciate him enough as he goes off to work or comes home. Tomorrow, as he heads out the door, I’ll be ready to give him a proper send off. Or at least one more memorable of the contribution he makes to our family finances. After that, I will start to take some extra time to focus on sending the kids off with more love and reminding them when they return home how valued they are. We could all use a little more of that.

The Look of Love

The whole babysitter dilemma situation always reaches a fever pitch on Valentine’s Day. This year, we’re dating at home. With coursework, housework, kids care and a cold coming on, I gave up trying. It was going to be impossible for the supply of babysitters to meet the needs of couples on a Friday night. Steve would have to settle for my cooking. I could serve our dinner after feeding the children and even light some candles. I told him not to bother with flowers and a gift this year. I wasn’t sure I was in the correct frame of mind. Mags told me I was in a rut. Possibly.

To celebrate the day in a smaller fashion, I packed lunches with heart-shaped sandwiches and cupcakes with pink icing. I slipped heart-shaped brownies into Steve’s briefcase with a sweet note. I am a good writer. Following Edie’s example, I brightened up and found a pale pink sweater to wear and even put on my pearls. Voila, I turned myself into a Valentine. For dinner, I made fried chicken and mac and cheese for the kids and put two drops of red dye into their milk glasses to make it festive. I always make them say what they love about their family and they groan before quickly giving some generic answer. After dinner, I let them watch TV while Steve and I ate alone. Junior made “kissy” noises at the doorway when I lit the candles and turned out the lights. I opened a bottle of wine and sautéed my best Steak Diane to serve with roasted baby potatoes and baby peas. I wonder why small food is considered more loving? Steve’s favorite chocolate cake was dessert for all of us. It was a lovely evening. No big declarations of love, just sweet little affirmations. Steve and I even got construction paper cards from the children.

After Daisy and Junior finally went to bed, I changed into a pretty nightgown and combed my hair. I excused myself and went into the kitchen to get the tray I had set up earlier for Steve and me. I placed a handful of Hershey’s kisses on a plate in a heart shape. I carried the tray with our drinks and fancy crackers and cheese back to the bedroom. We stayed up late watching Jack Paar and enjoyed Chi Chi Navarro  dancing and singing Calypso. It was our floor show. Steve didn’t seem to mind the do-it-yourself romantic evening at home. There was no slow dancing but no babysitter to drive home and pay either. When I got up to refill our glasses, Steve slipped an envelope onto the tray. Inside I found an hand-written IOU for a night out. It was a great idea. We could pick our own night of love to enjoy and we wouldn’t have to share it with everyone else. I knew we could sleep in a little in the morning. I had told the children to play quietly if we weren’t out of bed when they woke up.

Everyone was in such a good mood the next day, I made heart-shaped pancakes. They were a little rough on some sides, but tasted great. Loosening my standards for the holiday gave love a whole new look.

Please, Let Me Help

Another big snow storm. It was the third in two weeks. Our goodwill toward each other was slipping away like a skier going downhill. I have a lot of tricks up my sleeves and I always have planned activities to do indoors in the winter. We had used them up quickly in the last two weeks. The children had gone to school for a day or two and then the next storm would hit. Overtime the streets got cleaned up and the driveways and sidewalks became walkable, the work was covered over by another few inches of thick heavy snow. Steve’s back hurt so much, he let me help a little. I noticed that he watched up and down the street while clearing the snow to insure he wasn’t embarrassed by getting some assistance. He sent me inside quickly if he thought one of the guys saw me.

I was over the pretense. Before the next snowfall slowed and he noticed it was time to go outside to clear our part of the sidewalk, I called the Moms tree. Years ago, my girlfriends and I had devised a system to share important information. You called the next person on the list we had created and that person called the next person in line. With one call, we could spread a lot of information quickly. I rang up Chloe and told her that before Steve went outside, I was going to start the snow removal and I invited her to do the same. She agreed to call the next mom and then I saw her outside a few minutes later digging into the snow and scooping it up. Chloe had good technique and made solid walls to clear her sidewalk. Gradually, I saw other women come out, some with kids, and start the process in front of their own homes. We were a mighty force. By the time the men noticed, the girls had removed a lot of snow. As each man come out of hibernation, his wife pointed out that all the women were outside. Some men laughed and realized what had happened. There were women outside who weren’t even on our call tree. I think they just came out to support our movement. When Steve came out and I asked him to look up and down the block, he chuckled to himself and disappeared. He came back with the broom and another shovel and we both finished the task together.

I went inside first to fix some hot cocoa and a snack for the children. For the two of us, I warmed some brandy. I will admit that my back hurt a little the next day, but some aspirin took away the pain quickly. I knew that my girlfriends and I hadn’t started any revolution, but I like to think that most of the men appreciated our effort. My expectations didn’t include any illusions about the men being comfortable with our working outside all the time but maybe there was room for us to help every now and then. Change is best accepted gradually, one shovel at at time.

Role-Playing

The writing assignments for Lucy’s class this semester were on a whole new level. Each assignment was intentionally lengthened to help us create stories with more depth. More words always means more work in creating, editing and typing. My typewriter seemed to be permanently in use this term. There were choices in the syllabus and the Valentine’s Day assignment permitted us to choose between a short story on war or a romance novelette. I knew what I wanted to choose but figured having Edie help with my story would result in a higher grade. I only knew war stories from those the guys discussed.

Unfortunately, the heroes in my life were limited to the grocer, my car mechanic and Mr. Friel, who delivered the beer. I didn’t have any costumed characters to draw inspiration  from. I was certain it would be improper for me to create a fantasy about any of my friends’ husbands. I called Edie and asked if I could check in with her. Edie was getting bigger but could still move around pretty easily. The swelling in her feet was under better control also. I explained my homework to Edie and she sat back in her chair. I was uncertain what she was a thinking. Edie told me that she had never thought about using someone she knew in a story. Edie said she used some children’s picture encyclopedias that she purchased from a yard sale for inspiration. There was no shortage of possibilities in the books – princes, sheiks, lumberjacks, barons, etc. The premise that an ordinary man could be a hero in one of her novels seemed almost amusing. They would have to be in disguise somehow, like a mistaken identity.

This fact actually gave me my idea on how to write the story. I was going to make Steve my hero. Once that light went off in my head, Edie just gave me some pointers on exotic places and things to include. I wasn’t sure how exotic the place would be since I had not travelled much. I asked to borrow one of the encyclopedia and would choose the fun stuff from there.

After that, we talked about the baby. I wanted Edie to know that she could call at anytime, even if late at night when the time came if Artie wasn’t in town. Edie let me know that Artie had planned some time off around her due date and she was hoping the baby would be prompt. Even so, I let her know that it was okay to call. First babies are a lot of work because you want to do everything right. Second babies tend to come more easily and the nervousness decreases due to all of the mistakes you make on your first child.

I’ve Got a Secret

Since they moved in next door, Daisy and Marie-Claire have been best friends. They go to the same school, they take dance classes together and often play with each other on the weekends. Marie-Claire sometimes comes along when Daisy and I do errands and Daisy accompanies Chloe and Marie-Claire on local shopping adventures. Marie-Claire and Daisy get along well and on occasion, Daisy answers my simple questions in French instead of English; I think that is a bonus. I would say they are best friends. Mags has been my best friend since we moved to Monterey Park. She was the first neighbor I met and we got along well from the first conversation we had, but I don’t think there are limits on the number of friends one can have.

Daisy came home asking about another little friend from school who wanted to be Daisy’s best friend. Daisy’s questions centered on how she should respond. I asked Daisy what she thought a best friend should be. Her answers reflected the world of a young girl. She cited someone to play with, share stories with, allow to use her toys and tell secrets to. I asked her if her new friend met her criteria and she thought for a few seconds. Then she suddenly thanked me and left to roller skate on the sidewalk with Marie-Claire. I was still in the dark on the answer to the big question.

I glanced out the window from time to time as the girls skated along in front of our houses. They giggled, smiled and attempted tricks. I knew they wouldn’t be out long because it was getting colder and their cheeks were already getting flushed. This break in the weather was temporary and they would be playing inside for a while before spring arrived. I stepped out the door to let them know they had just a few minutes left and saw Daisy’s foot start to drag her skate that had unbuckled and gotten loose. I took her skate key and planted her foot back inside the skate to tighten it. Daisy thanked me and skated off. Daisy and Marie-Claire skated into each other’s arms and automatically turned and skated at the same pace down the sidewalk in front of Marie-Claire’s. Maybe that is how a best friendship should be, automatic, like you know exactly what to do for each other. I knew I was lucky having Mags and felt the same way about Chloe also. We shared secrets during our morning talks and put our heads together sometimes to speak without others hearing. It wasn’t necessarily because we were saying anything wrong but we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if they didn’t think the same way.

Daisy and Marie-Claire came inside to warm up and Daisy asked if Marie-Claire could stay for dinner. I told her to have Marie-Claire ask her mother if it was okay. The girls put their heads together and called next door. Chloe gave permission and the girls went off to wash up. Junior came into the kitchen and I asked him to set the table. I think it is important for boys to know how to do every chore as well as a girl would. How else would they take care of themselves when they grew up. He grumbled a little but started the task anyway. The girls came in and helped him and after Steve came home, we all ate together. Daisy asked Steve who his best friend was at dinner. Steve looked over at me to check if there was some right answer to provide but I purposely looked at my plate to cut my food. Steve asked Daisy what she meant and she repeated her criteria she had given me earlier. In that case, Steve told her, Mommy is my best friend. The children all giggled. Steve had lots of friends, work pals, golfing buddies, some men from the church and the neighborhood was full of men he competed with in lawn duels. I thought about that. Our friends are mostly nearby. Those old friends we had moved away from were still important people in our lives but they couldn’t really meet the criteria as Daisy pointed out.

Daisy told Steve about the little girl at school and he asked her what she was going to tell her. Now I would finally know the answer to the burning question. Daisy sat for a moment and said that they could start out as friends first. She wanted to keep best friend status for those closest to her. I think I do too. Sharing with lots of friends is great but having best friends is special. After the kids went up to bed, my best friend Steve made me a cocktail and we sat cuddled up on the sofa watching TV. There was something extra special about having a best friend you can snuggle up with. I leaned my head on Steve’s shoulder and told him how much I appreciated his answer at dinner. He just smiled. I really couldn’t tell if he was just happy he chose the right answer or relieved he didn’t name one of the guys, but I took it as a good sign anyway.

When Did I Do That?

The slushy aftereffects of the last snowfall still hid the yard in patches. The kids were in school, Steve was at work, I did not have class and my housework was done. This was golden time for me and I kept a running list of tasks in my head for opportunities like this to check them off.

For the first couple of years after the children came along, I kept the pictures we took and corner-glued them into books. After that, I lined them up in an old shoebox in the order we took them and most had a small date stamp on them already, so I knew I could put them back in order when I started the next album. I noticed that I needed to start a 3rd shoebox at Christmastime. I was behind and needed to work on it to catch up. I loved looking at the books to remember how the kids used to look at each age. I was included in some also, but not many. I did not like the way I looked in photos.

I pulled out the new photo book and box of corners and a dark marker to make notes under some photos. I realized that I couldn’t remember where we were in some earlier photos or who was in every picture and wanted to correct that moving forward. I thumbed through the photos and smiled at the changes I already noticed. Junior was way taller now and Daisy didn’t have that little Shirley Temple look any longer. Change occurs so gradually when you are living through each year and only accumulates in ways you can notice over time. As I placed each picture, I added a few notes about the place or the date if I could determine it and the names of anyone in the picture. I tried to print the details to make it legible. Time seemed to speed by as I wandered back in my memories. I envisioned a day in the future when my own children would look over these albums at their childhood. I couldn’t recall much of my own and there were very few pictures of me to help me remember. Parenting is a chance to make corrections. I wanted to improve specific wrongs from my childhood for my kids and I hoped they didn’t have too many complaints on me. I would never be the perfect mom, but I was pretty good.

When the kids came banging through the back door to take off their wet gear, I steered them to the kitchenette. I started to gather up the pictures but Daisy stopped to ask about one and Junior joined us in looking at pictures for a few minutes. Reluctantly, I gathered the rest up and returned them to the shoebox for another day of sorting. Daisy and Junior enjoyed looking over their own memories and laughed at how they looked while we ate our snack. After homework, dinner and bed, Steve asked about the shoeboxes and I shared what I was working on. Strangely, Steve had no idea that I had been keeping up with pictures and asked to look through the finished albums. Steve sat at the table with me looking at his past until we finally went to bed.

As he looked through the pictures, I heard him chuckle a few times. His reaction was a great incentive for me to keep up with our past more often. Time, even though it didn’t really exist, affected everything in life.