A few months ago while searching for something in a box of my children’s magical memories (school papers, pictures, artwork, journals, and such) I found a paper my oldest made in kindergarten. If you have school-age or older kids, then you know the paper. They all make one, and most moms dissolve into laughter and tears reading their little one’s innocent thoughts such as, “My mom is 8 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. Her favorite thing to do is call my dad an a$$hole. Her favorite food is wine.” Although, I kind of remember the ones my younger kids made, I hadn’t seen this one in almost 20 years. One line grabbed me: My mom is good at doing handstands.
I don’t remember doing many handstands past age 12 or 13, so when I asked my daughter if she remembered what it meant, she said, “You were good at all the tricks (cartwheels, handstands, etc.)” I have no recollection of my daughter being impressed by any “tricks” I could perform.
So many times, I’ve thought: I’ll never forget this, and then I do. I hear my youngest child’s baby voice on an old video and remember how she said “busgetti” and “breaftist” and “ambleeance” — spaghetti, breakfast and ambulance. I stumble upon a note my son wrote when he was 4 and remember how he used to scrawl angry rants on his leftover Spiderman Valentines and launch them into the living room like tiny enemy missiles when he was mad. I find a book Chloe “wrote” before she could write and wonder if someday she’ll show it to Oprah or Marie Forleo or another interviewer when asked how she became a writer. “I’ve always been a writer,” she might say.
“The days are long but the years are short.” — Gretchen Rubin
Last year I cried for about 3 months, took anti-depression medication, and felt my heart break over and over for 10 months when my son was three hours away at college. This year, I feel relaxed and hopeful for his sophomore year at a university 30 miles away. I’ve almost forgotten the panic attacks that kept me up night after night.
A few weeks ago, I watched helplessly as disappointment and discouragement rattled my baby girl’s confidence when she went through her first experience of trying out for something and not making it. I hope she’ll forget all about it someday, but I know better. Those are the things we rarely forget…heartbreak, not making the team, feeling left out. Wouldn’t it be great if all the good stuff stuck with us in the way the bad stuff does? I’d much rather remember the sound of my babies sweetly calling, “Moooooommyyyy,” when they first woke up than the sound of my voice cracking with tears when I tried out — and didn’t make it — for a singing group in 9th grade.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, the idea of “eternity” made my head spin. Forever and ever and ever and ever was too much to contemplate so I made a game of it that I still sometimes play. When something happened that made me really happy, I would think: This, forever, please. Adventures with my siblings or playing cards with my mom made me pray: This, forever, please. And over the years those experiences evolved. Watching my kids laugh together or exploring an island with my best friend or even sitting under the pergola with my husband watching our dogs run around, I think: This, forever, please.
I don’t understand why sometimes the bad stuff sticks with us more than the good. Time goes faster as you get older sounds cliché until you get older and wonder if time is actually going faster.
I still get a little woozy when I think of eternity (and most other things I learned growing up in the Catholic Church) so I rarely think about it. But occasionally, when I want to make a moment last, I think: This, forever, please.
Whether you believe it goes fast or slow or slowly now and faster then or slower then and faster now, time does in fact go by. When people say, “You’re gonna miss this,” I dismiss them, politely, with a smile and nod. My children are 25, 19, and almost 13. I already know what I won’t miss including many things about them being babies, toddlers, tweens, and teens. Rarely, I feel a pang knowing that those periods in our life are over, but it’s never a longing to go back. I don’t want another newborn or toddler or tween (or kitten.) Ever.
What I do want is to give every ounce of my energy to this moment, this period of life, this version of me. I want to start every day with hope that it will be the best one yet, and I want to go to bed every night knowing that I was fully present with my kids, with my husband, and with the cashier at Aldi.
We won’t remember everything, but we can capture moments that will turn into memories as time goes by. We can drink in the happy moments and choke on the tears. We can embrace the strength and embolden the fragility. We can choose to forget and pray to remember. We can blink away years and make moments last.
This. Forever. Please.