My daughter chastises me for not documenting her childhood completely in her baby book. She claims I didn’t write as much about her as about her older brother.
This week – the week of her birthday as well as of Mother’s Day – I’ve gone back and looked at her baby book. I didn’t do too badly.
Her first birthday was actually on Mother’s Day, and we had a family celebration with both grandmothers, a grandfather, and a great-grandmother on hand. I wrote about everyone who came to see her, and also wrote:
M. was sick – she had an ear infection, but bore it bravely, and looked very pretty in a navy blue party dress which Grandma and Grandpa gave her when she was born.
For her second birthday we had another family celebration. That year, I wrote in part:
M. was very aware of how important the celebration was, and told everyone she was “two on my Happy Two-Day.”. . .
M. had her arm in a cast on her birthday, because she had fallen off a slide at school two weeks before.
How ironic that she celebrated her second birthday recuperating from a broken bone, and is now about to celebrate a twenty-something birthday in the same condition – this time a leg instead of an arm. (But other than these two fractures, she only had a stress fracture in high school. She’s not that accident prone. Well, she had hip surgery in college. But that wasn’t an accident; that was a bone spur.)
Her baby book also contains lists I wrote of the words she could say at 14 months, 17 months, and 19 months. I detailed the songs she sang in her first few Christmas programs in preschool.
I have her birth certificate, Baptismal Record, and First Communion certificate. I can tell you her height and weight until she was ten years old. I even kept her Driver’s Record Examination form from when she was 16 (she passed the driver’s test on the first try) and a copy of the form we sent when she enrolled in college listing all her immunizations to date.
The baby book is one repository for the details of her life.
But it doesn’t contain everything. It isn’t even the most important repository.
The note from her second birthday about the cast on her arm doesn’t record my memories of when it happened. The daycare center said she had hit her head, and not to give her Tylenol in case she had a concussion. But by bedtime it was clear to me that it was her arm that was injured, not her head. I gave her the Tylenol.
That night was the only time either of my children ever slept with me, but I put my daughter in bed with me that night when she cried with the pain. Neither of us got much sleep.
The next morning – a Saturday – was the only time I ever showed up at the pediatrician’s office without an appointment. “She needs to see a doctor,” I told the receptionist, in a tone that made clear I wouldn’t be put off. We were seen right away, then sent to the hospital for an X-ray.
“Mommy!” my little girl screamed, reaching out her good arm over the nurse’s shoulder toward me as the nurse carried her off to X-ray. Without me. My heart broke as she sobbed, but I was not permitted to follow.
No, those memories are not in the baby book, but they are written on my heart.
Fast forward to this February. The text message my daughter sent announcing her ski accident (“In a clinic – probably broke my leg . . . ”) will disappear from my cell phone at some future date, as will her follow-up message (“Surgery! I’ll let you know.”).
But what won’t disappear as long as I have a memory is my sinking feeling and then certainty that I needed to be with her. Twenty-four hours after her first text, I was at the airport ready to fly to her side. I dropped everything to spend two-and-a-half weeks with her. We both survived me giving her shots of blood thinners, getting her in and out of her car (around her friend’s skis and poles), and living together in her small apartment.
Each notation in her baby book, each card and email and text, bring back my memories. The real repository of my life as a mother. As the Bible says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Lk 2:19 NAB)
Remembering. Reflecting. It’s what mothers do, what we have done throughout the ages.
Happy Birthday to my daughter. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.
What do you remember about your children? Or your mothers? Write it down. And tell them.