Memories have been on my mind. Not specific memories of mine, but rather the idea of memories themselves–their comings and goings, what they’re made of, how they last or don’t. I suppose this comes with the territory of being a parent: having to constantly be ready to greet in the morning the child who looked, moved, spoke differently at bedtime the day before. The child whose soft little hand fits into your own in a slightly new way today. Constant surprise, ceaseless change. Letting go is the work of motherhood just as much as nurturing, and harder too. As the days cycle onward at an ever-increasing pace, I am hastily shoving memories–the good, the bad, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference–into my pockets for a rainy day, or forever. But what will I really, finally keep from this infuriating, joy-filled, heart-wrenching, exhausting time during which it is not unusual to experience the full range of human emotions on any given day? What will my boys remember from the days when I’m somewhere on the spectrum of mildly to extremely frustrated all day long? In motherhood, I have become hyper-aware of the indifference of time’s passage and the shocking brevity of childhood. It wasn’t until I first became a mom that I realized how much growing up I still had to do.
As we fall into bed at night and I mull over the day and share a short snippet or two with Travis, he sometimes laments that he cannot remember certain details from these young years with our two boys. He will tell me this and then look at me hopefully,
“But you’re putting all this down in your journal, aren’t you?”
The short answer is…..no. I have recorded tidbits here and there in my ever-growing collection of journals that date back to junior high, but really, those journals are for my eyes only until long after I’m gone. And anyway, since Cadel was born (nearly 6 years ago!), large gaps have appeared between my entries, most notably a full 6 month blank after baby Charles joined us. I have scribbled down certain one-liners from the boys, short descriptions of small moments that I want to remember, basic stats from only some of our travels and adventures. But many precious memories, I fear, have slipped through a hole in my pocket, carried by the wind. Gone. Where do they go, I wonder. Where, after all?
Our boys were recently gifted little insect catching nets and matching plastic bug-viewing chambers, complete with air holes and magnifying glasses to keep the critters alive and to observe them. The creature lover/animal rights activist in me has always been unsettled by these kinds of trapping devices, especially in well-meaning but chubby-clumsy preschooler fingers, so as we tossed around ideas of what exactly they might catch to place in their viewers (beetles, worms, ants) I was careful to let the boys know that if they are so lucky as to find something, they are to handle it very, very gently–not, perhaps, with the clunky tweezers that also accompanied the gift set–and observe it for a limited amount of time before releasing it back to its home in the wild. Cadel was quiet for a few seconds, his gaze off in the distance. Then his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “What if I catch a butterfly?! I can’t keep it forever, Mom?”
Later that day, I had a vivid daydream of Cadel catching a butterfly. Easily, he scooped it out of the air with his little net, moved it with a cupped hand into his bug keeper. It’s wings were dabbed with vivid cerulean and dandelion yellow, outlined with rich charcoal, like butterflies I’ve only ever seen in books. Together we observed the intricate whorls of color on its impossibly delicate wings, the peach fuzz that covers its narrow body, the quick and tiny tongue that flits from its mouth, seeking. I wondered at the incredible sleight of hand that turned a squishy crawling caterpillar into this this ephemeral sparkling creature. Then, I imagined, Cadel glanced at me, and I shared his pang of sadness as he lifted the lid of the keeper. Pausing for a split second, the butterfly fluttered out and then, then it was that it’s that its wings brushed my cheek, quickly and ever so softly, before it disappeared. My breath caught in the back of my throat and I touched my face, waking myself from the dream.
I think our memories are something like this: a butterfly’s magic brush on our cheek. A feeling to keep from each moment that we cannot. This electric touch I try to place in my own “keeper” and twist the lid tightly over. This feeling I will return to as the years go by, that I hope will be the key to unlocking once again the color and the details of these creatures I had the opportunity to have up close for this short and special time.
With the passing of each holiday, birthday, each brilliant flash of discovery, each first, each everyday kiss and tickle and meal shared, each story and tuck in and surprise snuggle, my face is flush with the brush of these stories that pass by me so quickly, though I still do try to close my fists around the really beautiful ones and store them in my pockets. (But too often don’t we hold tighter to the ugly ones instead?) I try not to think about all the times I didn’t snap a photo or didn’t make a journal entry. My own incessant nostalgia is sometimes so strong, and it is an effort to not to let my better days be behind me. So I try to sharpen my awareness of the present moment, of that butterfly that is right in front of me, about to fly. I try. I suppose in the end all my journals and photos will be a relic for someone I will never know. For myself, I trust that time cannot wear away that vivid energy of the stories I’ve allowed through my skin to take root in my inner chambers. Trust is an especially rare commodity in this world, isn’t it? Still, foolishly perhaps, I trust that everything I need is contained in the electric buzz left on my cheek as each story passes by. My forever keepsakes.
Gin Kombucha Refresher
Since moving to Portland, I’ve gradually either accepted or embraced certain cultural idiosyncracies. For instance, I now come to a complete stop at stop signs (sigh), and I don’t get too worked up when the car in front of me doesn’t pull out into the goddamn intersection! when waiting to make a left turn. I’ve also started making kombucha, happily. Apparently everyone’s doing it (I got Scobys to get me started both from a kind elderly neighbor and a preschool mom-pal), and it’s actually a pretty good idea. I like to drink it plain, maybe flavored with a little fresh ginger juice, but my current favorite use for it is this cocktail, which Travis claims is good enough to make him a “gin drinker.” I suppose I didn’t need any convincing as far as gin goes, but this is ridiculously tasty.
This is adapted from a delicious recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that can be found here. I have simplified the original recipe for my own benefit and shrunk its proportions to suit my preference for smallish cocktails, so don’t feel guilty about making a second one right after you finish the first; I certainly don’t.
2 1/2 ounces unflavored kombucha
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Campari
squeeze of fresh citrus juice*
In a glass, place three ice cubes. Pour all of the ingredients over the ice and give it a little swirl. Enjoy.
*I typically use orange, but I think lime, lemon, or meyer lemon would be equally delicious