Tag Archives: memories

How to Console a Child (While Possibly Scarring Another for Life)

The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone.  Growing up in a family of five girls, I was the oldest and she was the second oldest.  Now we are both married and mommies, she with three kids and me with five.  Most of our conversations are filled with parenting stories, and occasionally, stories reminiscent of our own childhoods together.  Now while this post may not be traditional in the sense that I am talking about my children, it definitely is noteworthy in the sense that it is about parenting and, quite possibly, how she and I were shaped into the parents we are today (wonderful, of course).

Yesterday we were recalling a special, warm night long ago.  I was 6 or 7 and she would have been 4 or 5.  Now at this particular time in our lives, we lived in a nice, two story house in a nice neighborhood.  We were adventurous and imaginative.  We collected all sorts of skeletal remains and created our own museums and tried to charge admission (no one came, sadly).  We created our own amazing restaurant and put together the menu ourselves.  We even made the items and tried to get our mom to sample our culinary skills (she wouldn’t).

The house we lived in was not without its own stories, about which we loved to create wild fantasies.  For example, in the basement, there was a huge closet.  The first part of the closet could be closed off from the rest of the closet (thank God!!), and that was where our mom did the laundry.  The rest of the closet was filled with… mannequins.  Now why the previous owners had a bunch of mannequins down in their basement and left them so generously to us was beyond my understanding.  All I know was it was C-R-E-E-P-Y!

There was also a laundry shoot that opened up at the top of the second floor, on the first floor and went all the way into the basement.  The idea was that you could put your clothes down the shoot instead of carrying them down three or two flights of stairs.  However, the shoot was sealed at the basement end and not at the top.  Why?  Who knows.  What was stacked up in there at the bottom besides some of our unfortunate toys?  Who knows.  My sister and I liked to play a game where one of us dropped a toy from the second floor and the other caught it from the shoot on the first floor.  Sometimes we missed…

But perhaps the creepiest thing about the house, simply by the nature of its location, was our bedroom and its “closet.”  It was actually an attic (hello!  who puts attics next to bedrooms?!?) that was made into a huge playroom that had no windows, high ceilings and a 10 foot stuffed kangaroo in it.  Again, another creepy gift left behind by the previous owners.

Here is a crude diagram of our room and our bed placement in it:

our bedroom

One night after tucking us both in, saying prayers and kissing us goodnight, my sister started crying.  In came my mom and asked her what the matter was.

“There are monsters in the closet!”  she cried.

“No, there are no monsters in your closet.  Go back to sleep,” my mother gently said.

“Yes there are!!!!”  she cried even more.  My mom sighed and tried to comfort her, to no avail.  Finally, she offered the following:

“Listen, even if there were monsters in the closet, they would see Laura’s bed first when they opened the door and eat her instead.”

That comforted my sister and she went to sleep.  As for me… I’m not sure I slept so well.

Road Trips

I am the oldest of five girls.  I remember taking many road trips with the family when we were younger.  Actually, any place we went, be it the grocery store or a scenic drive could be categorized into the memory bank of “road trips.”  One thing was guaranteed about all trips we took: we would scream and fight the whole way.  My mom would bring Wee-Sing cassettes to play (those God-awful tunes are STILL in my head to this day), and my dad would pull out his hair trying to get us to stop fighting and screaming at each other.  I never could figure out why our poor parents wanted to drive anywhere with us!

There was one vacation in particular that really stands out in my mind.  I believe there were all five of us kids at that point, and I was no older than 10 or 11.  We had this huge van that was as ugly as it was big.  It could haul a dozen families and still have room for junk to get tossed around in.  It was also old.  At the time we decided to take this family getaway from Houston, Texas to somewhere freezing and snowy in Colorado, the van needed to be jumped almost every time it was turned on.

Now the great state of Texas is very large.  A non-stop drive to Colorado would take someone a day.  How long did it take us?  Three days.  Three days of bliss on the highway.  Three days needing a jump when we turned off the car.  At least one night of no vacant hotels and camping miserably inside the van.  And of course, three days of sibling screaming and bickering.

My mom had just bought scrapbooks for me and my sister closest in age to me.  I could not wait to fill it up with Colorado road trip paraphernalia!  But my third sister got car sick and barfed all over the cover.  I was irate, devastated and ready to pull all her beautiful curls out.  But my dad told me about his Crosby Stills Nash and Young record he had when he was in college.  Beautiful, new, perfect.  But along came his cat and pooped right on the center of the album cover.   He promised me that I would always remember that trip and that scrapbook (and for him, that cat!) because of it’s unintended first entry.  I still have the scrapbook to this day, and yes, you can still see the spot where I cleaned off my beloved sister’s vomit.  Ahh, memories!

Now I am a parent of five children and I cart them around all over town, and sometimes from city to city.  I used to brag about how well they traveled, but I guess pride really does cometh before the fall.  They antagonize each other.  Grab blankies, throw toys, scream, whine, complain that everything takes so long, think that every fast food place we pass means they must eat NOW.  The 3-year old picks his nose and eats it.  The 8-year old asks me endless questions about who plays who in the movies from the way back seat where I could not hear him even if he screamed.  The baby makes shrill noises now just so he doesn’t get forgotten.  And well, every trip in the car has now become a road trip.

When we make the trek out to my parents’ ranch house 5.5 hours away, it takes us between 7 and 9 hours.  We stop at least a dozen times.  You know the drill: 4 will have to pee, but the one refuses…. until we have passed all signs of life.  Then it is an emergency that he/she go RIGHT NOW.  The constant hunger even though they just ate, and ate before that, and ate and snacked and ate some more.  Ahh, yes… we are making memories.  I am screaming and throwing my hand behind me to get them to stop fighting, to no avail.  We try to play little games in the car like “I spy a cow,” but that never lasts long… When the questions and fighting and noise gets a little too much, I add in my own noise – my CD’s.  And no, I don’t play Wee-Sing.  That stuff never EVER leaves your brain.

But eventually we make it to our destination and I am literally kissing the ground when we get out.

Of course, I know this will not last.  Already, my almost 12 year old has precious little to say.  Too soon will my car be quiet… so for all the noise and frustration and hair loss I may experience, it is worth the poop and vomit that make those memories oh so precious!

Memory Eternal

As with so many near and dear to us, there will be no flashy front page articles on the passing of one’s life.  The world will go on as it did just yesterday.  But for those of us who are mourning the death of a loved one, our lives are now different and forever changed by our loss.  What we have now are our memories and our love and our prayers.

If my uncle were on the front page this morning, the article might read something to this effect:  “Early this morning, the world said good bye to a great man…  Charles, who lost his battle to liver cancer, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones…”  And while his passing was indeed peaceful, and while he was surrounded by his youngest brother and sister in law while the rest of the world slept unknowingly, I would argue that it was not a battle lost, but a battle won.

We all share struggles in this life.  My uncle’s struggle with cancer was very brief, as he only became aware of it mid-July of this year.  He has always been a sweet and loving man, generous and outgoing.  He was nothing less while he suffered through his cancer these past months.  And though his last week or two was uncomfortable, he endured it peacefully and humbly.

He has always been very close t0 my five children.  Today, with tears in their eyes, they remember the ball games he took them to, the movies they saw together: Avatar, Madagascar, Toy Story 3, just to name a few.  They remember how he made the four hour drive to our home to visit us when my 6 year old turned 7, and how whenever we drove down to where he and much of our other family live, he always opened his house to us.  He adored us all and he especially adored my children.  As he had none of his own, I always felt like he lived out “Dad” through them at times.

But perhaps the most remarkable and miraculous thing was his spirituality during his past few months.  Many people get religious and go looking for God and cures when faced with a terminal illness.  But he seemed to not find Him out of superstition or in hopes of a cure, yet out of a genuine conversion.  He was baptized into the Orthodox Church, coincidently, the same day his father passed away seven years prior.  And while we will all miss him terribly, we know that he is now at peace, whole and well.  He is in Paradise, where there is no suffering, no sighing and no tears.

Memory Eternal, beloved Uncle, Great Uncle, nephew and brother!

Uncle Charlie with my 11-year old, 8-year old and hubby, 5 days before his death.


Slow down, Time,

You go too fast.

Stealing fleeting moments

And burying them in the past.

Slow down, Dear Children,

For quickly have you grown,

Skipping through the years, it seems,

Too soon will you leave home.

Be settled, Worried Heart,

Take each day as it sees fit to come,

Cherishing these precious times,

As to memories they succumb.

There, there, Aching Tears,

It’s the pain, the joy, cries and sorrows,

That truly are gifts to remember,

And the reason for Tomorrows.