Memories are tricky things – sometimes you think you’ve got a handle on the past, and a conversation can trigger something that surprises you, and the past comes flying up in your face like a startled flock of birds. There are certain things I realised this week, about myself, and I thought it was cool.
I grew up surrounded by people who made things – whether it was out of necessity at one point, and turned into a hobby, I don’t know. I had awesome relationships with my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother was a writer and painter, and she used to take me to her painting classes. She was pretty sharp right up until she passed away – had an email address even though she was blind – the nurses in her care home used to check it regularly and print out my long emails and read them to her. She was a really strong personality – and had a firm hand in how I shaped my views on a lot of things growing up. She passed away four years ago at 97.
My two older brothers and I called my paternal grandmother Dullknife. Long story, but the short of it is that I’m so old I grew up playing cowboys and indians with my brothers – we were always the cowboys, and Dullknife was always the indian – and it stuck. In any case, she used to bake cookies after school for us, take me to my piano lessons, played duets with me, and had the best costume jewellery to play dress-up of ALL time. She was pretty much my favourite person until she died when I was 9 or 10.
So I guess where I’m going with this, was that today I made chicken noodle soup with matzo balls for lunch. The recipe I have for matzo balls is not my grandmothers – it’s my friend Sarah’s grandmothers. That got me thinking about memories, and matzo ball soup, and just how powerful people like grandparents – really anyone – can be in your life, especially as a child. Often the people who make the most impact have no idea, and sometimes you don’t realise it until it’s too late to thank them. The same is true about people you meet as adults – sometimes you meet someone who can make you think of things in a whole new way – and your baggage adjusts, memories stir up, and settle again, like all that dust on my piano.
I have large gaps in my childhood memories, and it’s always bothered me. About two months before my first child was born, I started to keep a journal. I had been listening to CBC, to a woman who had five year old twins – one of which was diagnosed with autism. Because she had kept a journal, the doctors were able to read back, through the children’s daily lives, and find clues to help them with their diagnosis. What I took away from that, was that I thought it was cool that a child could show signs of who they would be at such an early age, and decided to try to keep a journal. I’m not going to lie – I don’t spend hours sitting at a sunny window drinking starbucks, casually journalling with a fancy pen – I keep my journal in the room where all the best thinking happens. I can close the door, and for five minutes, record the things that happened that day – “Mommy, I want Hallowe’en to come over right NOW!” (Ben). I sometimes forget, I don’t write every day, but I have managed to capture some of the hilarious things my kids do that I otherwise would have forgotten. And I have the most amazing stack of beautiful leather-bound journals filled with memories, so that if my kids ever need to remember something wonderful, they’ll be able to look back and know that their little lives were happy ones. It’s my private craft, for my kids, and aside from the fact that it’s practically a miracle that I’ve almost finished my 6th volume, it will be awesome for my kids when I’m gone.