Unreliable Memories

Be careful before you believe what you remember.

Jane K. Cleland

When my younger brother was a child, he sprayed the kitchen of our home with the garden hose. That is a true fact.

My memories: My brother was two or three. He opened the back door and sprayed. I was soaked. I screamed for my mother to stop him. She wouldn’t. My older sister ran through the water and wrestled the hose nozzle from my brother. He hosed the kitchen a second time that summer.

My brother’s memories:  He was four or five. My sister and I had locked him out of the house. He deserved it. He plotted revenge and decided on the hose. When the back door opened, he took action. My sister and I ran down the hall screaming. There was one incident.

My sister’s memories: None.

During a long drive to visit grandparents, there was an incident involving a doughnut box. My siblings and I agree on that fact. We agree on the box’s yucky contents—and in hindsight we laugh. However, we have varying—sometimes conflicting—memories about other details.

Along the way, I learned that memories are unreliable.

How do you reconcile conflicting memories?

Basics, Decisions

What Do I Really Want?

Tomorrow I will be 65 years old. Many have asked what I want for this milestone.

Too many years ago, I clipped and saved a cake recipe. Until two days ago, I said that I wanted my family to make that cake for this 65th birthday. After examining the recipe, I decided what I really wanted with their time was help with a Christmas Stamp puzzle.

For one day, I said a locally-purchased blackberry pie would substitute for homemade cake—until I decided pie wasn’t what I really wanted. My husband offered mimosas for us to drink on the patio. (Months ago, I had declared I would spend this milestone sitting on my patio and gazing at my flowers and woods—now with a jigsaw puzzle added.)

Enjoying My Patio at Night

My husband bought mimosa ingredients and a box of nectarines. Better than cake and pie although not necessarily better than the birthday ice cream I have already sampled.

I want the Ukrainian War ended and all life respected and the ailments and brokenness that come from 65 years healed, but what do I really want among the little things I can control?

What do you really want?


Family Excursions

My husband and I visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden—not knowing that Labor Day was free or that there was a LEGO® exhibition.* Both led to crowded sidewalks.  Both gave me the opportunity to observe diverse family interactions.

What did I learn and wish I had known? The best family excursions do not impart knowledge.

Moments after we entered, the first LEGO® Bricks creation appeared. I heard children hollering “Butterfly, Butterfly.” 

37,481 LEGO® Bricks

Squealing children also ran through water sprinklers or gingerly avoided them. They laughingly rolled down the steep, grassy hill by the conservatory. 

The most peaceful parents were those experiencing the day through their children’s eyes, rather than forcing the reverse.  

Those parents did not audibly marvel at the creativity of the designs. They resisted the temptation to point out the hard work involved. Unlike me, they did not read the signs, which meant they did not repeat that information to their children—especially the pounds or number of LEGO® Bricks used in each figure.

60 pounds of LEGO® Bricks

Silent parents led to happy children, who determined what was amazing.

Any upcoming excursions?

* Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks created by Sean Kenney (2016)

Family, Parenting

Our Family Newsletter

When my children were ages five to eight, we started a family newsletter. It was snail mailed to their grandparents, two aunts, and two great-aunts. Our boys drew cartoons, provided book reports, reported family current events, and gave updates on their guinea pigs. One column had prayer requests. The boys chose all topics.

My kindergartner dictated his articles. Occasionally, the older two dictated while my husband typed their contributions. For the first year, we “published” every two weeks. Eventually, we dwindled to once a month.

Our newsletter lasted only three to four years, but along the way, it became a precious history of our family. Copies reside in our safe.

At the time, I didn’t realize the educational impact of the newsletter. Later, I realized that dictation gave the boys confidence to write. Recording our children’s “talk” and showing them the results, took some fear out of writing. Writing begins—although it doesn’t end—by putting “talk” on paper.

After a friend and her husband reviewed long ago copies of their family newsletter, she said, “They were the best and most encouraging items we had read in years.”  

Any family activities worth recording for posterity?

Friendship, Stories I Share

Stories I Share: Meeting Needs

I was savoring my morning accomplishment of putting a meal in my crockpot—the first since my newborn’s birth—when the phone rang. The two-year-old twin of a close friend had been hospitalized. My friend was pregnant with her fourth child. I immediately thought of my chicken in my crockpot. Did Donna need it more? I prayed.

Moments later, a mutual friend knocked on the door. Because Mary lived nearby, my friend Shirley had given her a meal at church and asked her to deliver it.

“Take it to Donna instead,” I said.

Later, Donna asked, “How did Shirley know I was desperate for a meal? Mary told me to return the dishes to Shirley.”

Months later, Mary stopped by to tell me that another pregnant friend had been put on bedrest. Mary wanted to take her a meal, but it was impossible with her day’s schedule. I immediately thought of a casserole in my freezer. I made a salad and took the meal.

Shirley and Mary met Donna’s need. Not I. I met Chris’s need. Not Mary. I never forgot that sometimes the best way to help is simply let a need be known.

Your turn or another’s?