What They’ll Remember


“Come and lie down with me, Mom! Just for a minute.” Exhausted, and ready to be on my own, my six-year-old pleads with me to snuggle in bed with him as I tuck him in for the night. His safari bedsheets and fleece dinosaur pajamas create quick, blue sparks with each wiggle. I would never have volunteered this on my own, but once I lay down, I realize the simple blessing my son has given me. It is something I will remember. We are having a moment, together. It quiets me, and I can feel the roughness and chaos of the day slowly ebbing from my fingertips and the top of my head. I let out a sigh.

“Aah, this was a good day.” G smiles under the covers.

And it was.  I had just forgotten. I had chosen stress instead of appreciation and gratitude, so it had seemed rushed. I had felt there were so many things to get done that day, but that moment, cuddled up in whispers, there in my son’s twin-sized bed, I had been given the most productive part of my day.  And that is what I am choosing to remember. I hope he does, too.

In the past couple of weeks, a few different people have encouraged me to ask my children to name their favorite family Christmas tradition. All children love receiving presents, and sometimes it seems our family doesn’t do anything particularly unique to any other American family for Christmas. Sometimes, I wonder what they will really remember about our family traditions once they are grown.  I encourage you to ask your own children. It may surprise you once you do. To be honest, I half expected my own boys to shrug their shoulders, and not know what to say. However, they each had a ready answer.  Their answers made me smile for their simplicity, like taking a moment to lie down on a bed, and for the fact that I recognized our particular family through their responses. We do celebrate in special ways I believe they will remember.

Here is how they answered:

G ‘s favorite is eating chocolate croissants on Christmas morning after emptying the stockings.

A likes picking out his own new Christmas ornament each year at Cracker Barrel or Kohl’s, and he likes the beautiful candle light Christmas Eve service at our church.

S remembers eating Trader Joe’s Panettone every year since he was little. Seriously, he would sit and eat an entire one on his own if I let him.


Nothing special….except that they are. They are special memories because they have become something we expect.  They began effortlessly and unintentionally, but have become part of our favorite traditions. They are foods and moments and shared experiences. We can’t imagine the holiday, our life, our relationships without them. You may go to Trader Joe’s and enjoy the panettone, but in no other house does it taste as sweet as in ours.

Candles and pastries and ornaments. A quiet moment lying together on the bed.  This is what they’ll remember.

Of Octopuses and Other Invertebrates

A painting by S of a giant squid from just a few months ago.

S was not quite four when he became deeply enamored with octopuses and squids, but especially octopuses.  Especially the Giant Pacific and the Blue-ringed octopuses.  I remember this now, because G is almost exactly the same age.  I learned things about these invertebrates I never expected to learn in my entire life, much less from my stilll three-year-old son.  Like that they had beaks made from keratin.  That there were approximately 250 species of octopus in the oceans.  Even things concerning life span and fertilization.  One day when picking S up from preschool I met a mom leaving as I was coming in the door.

-You are S’s mom?

-Yes, that’s right.

She then proceeded to tell me how much she had enjoyed his show and tell.  At first I wondered why, because he had just brought in a plastic bath toy of….you guessed it….an octopus.  She then told me he had stood up and began talking (in what I am quite sure was a heavily lispy voice).  “The Blue-ringed octopus lives off the coasts of Australia and Indonesia…”  I am quite certain his classmates were not as interested, but I was proud of him.  He has always loved to share (i.e. show off ) information.

Four years before I had an idea that I would one day be educating S and his brothers at home, I was inspired by his and A’s enthusiasm.  They came home from school each day ready to play and to learn.  That summer after S turned four we did a full study (well, at least what our library afforded us) of octopuses.  We read about them, acted out octopus dramas in the living room and at bathtime, created arms showing hundreds of suckers represented by Cheerios, and even visited one at a nearby aquarium.

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2014-winter 002 Eventually, we created our own Blue-ringed with a paper bag and some poster paint.  Click here for a photo of an actual Blue-ringed octopus.

I feel quite nostalgic for those days.  My boys were preschoolers back then.  The world was exciting, and we were wrapped intrinsically in each other’s worlds.  I love S at ten, as well, but it is a different time, with different joys.  He still reads about octopuses and other invertebrates, but not with the same frenetic pace.  It is an occasional reading.  He has other interests.

I need to learn to appreciate this ten-year-old S.  It seems this will be who he is forever, but now I appreciate how Laura Ingalls Wilder ended Little House in the Big Woods.

“They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now.  It can never be a long time ago.”

And yet, as if she has siphoned herself mysteriously away, the Blue-ringed octopus already seems to be fading into the recent past.

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