Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forgetting to remember

I always think I am forgetting something. It haunts me. Did I forget to lock the door? Did I forget to make the appointment? Did I forget to bring the kid to the appointment? Did I forget the kid? Did I forget to brush my teeth? Did I forget to put the washed laundry in the dryer? There is so much to remember that it seems the odds of forgetting something are pretty high, right?

The truth is, I am pretty good at remembering the big stuff. It is the little stuff I am always forgetting. I never remember to put the washed clothes in the dryer. I never remember to say God Bless You when my husband sneezes,which bothers him, and then I remember for a few days and then forget again. I forget about shows I wanted to watch and I forget to take protein items out of the freezer leaving us all at a loss in terms of dinner preparation. I forget to call my grandmother, I forget to call my mother, actually.... I don't call anyone. Bad. Very bad.

I suppose it is to be expected, this forgetfulness of mine. I have three children, I work full time, I work part time teaching, I am in the process of finishing my Doctorate, I write novels, I have a husband and a garden and a home to tend to....all of this can make my head spin. People often ask me how I do it all. I try to answer them, but I can't really, because I am thinking that it isn't so much to do. I think about my great grandmother, Rosalina with her eight surviving children, her home, her store, her language barrier. She made their clothes, she parented, she did it without a husband (for the most part) and without complaint. She kept a garden, she killed chickens, she protected her children from the 1918 flu epidemic and she went to church. How the hell can I think there is too much on my plate when I think about her? It just isn't possible. Busy I am...overwhelmed I am not. So why do I forget?

To be honest, I don't really care about the things I forget which is probably why I forget them in the first place. What astonishes me about the idea of forgetting is how we can completely lose moments in our past that helped us to grow into the people we become.

My oldest daughter is fifteen. She is doing fifteen really well. It is not an easy age. Recently she divulged the fact that there is some tension in her group of friends at school. My mother feathers got ruffled, but I was also surprised, and so I puzzled the whole thing out of her. Seems she's fallen prey to the normal things girls of that age do to one another. She is the odd man out for the moment, and no matter how I try to convince her that "this too shall pass," she remains morose and furious at her situation. And then I began to remember. And when I began to remember I just couldn't stop.

Fifteen. I wasn't allowed to go to the senior prom even though my two best friends were going. When I told them, they blamed me and said I was lying. They thought I didn't want to go and was hiding behind some bogus, made up rule. I wasn't. My mom really wouldn't let me go.... but to be honest, I didn't want to anyway, so they were kind of right. These friends of mine didn't talk to me for two weeks. I remembered how long those two weeks seemed. They took up a life span. I wanted to kill them. I was furious and hurt and confused. I thought we left all that stuff behind in Jr. High. Not so. It simply got worse through high school.

So, the memory of this helped me to understand that all of the advice in the world won't help my girl right now. Telling her it will end doesn't help because every moment of her life is like a week or a month of my own. Time goes by slooooooooow when we are that age. Funny how I forgot that. All I can do is share stories with her, stories I am trying to remember, stories that are similar, stories that will let her know that though I can't fix this, I can empathize.

This morning while she got in the car, I walked over to the tree in front of our house and picked a Lilly of the Valley from the ring I planted last summer around its trunk. I brought it to her and I asked her to smell it. When I got around to the drivers side she said "That's pretty." I told her that I agreed and I told her that those flowers are shade lovers, they don't compete with the flowers boasting bigger blooms or brighter colors, they are simply the loveliest, sweetest smelling flower that there is, right there in the shade. She is no dummy, my kid, and she asked me "So is this me? Is that what you are trying to say?" And I told her she was right, and then I told her why. It was about being honest. The idea I was trying to help her understand was that there is nothing wrong with sitting in the shade for a little while to consider what has occured and contemplate what role she played. Nothing will be lost that isn't retrievable, but the question becomes what does she want to retrieve? Sometimes when we lose things, it is for the best. They are things that need to be lost. I told her the story I remembered about the prom. And then I told her that in the end I wish I had proceeded differently. I wish I had sat for a moment under a tree and thought about what I needed from a friend. I wish I understood the idea that we can grow from loss.

When she got out of the car she dropped the flower on the seat. But when she gathered her things she picked it back up and took it with her, my signal that she was trying to hear me, and that is all I could have asked for.

Driving to work I thought about what I said to her. I thought about the part where I mentioned that sometimes we lose things we are supposed to lose. And I thought about forgetting. Maybe, just maybe, some of the things we forget to remember are things we were never supposed to remember in the first place. They are things that we carefully put away like a quilt or a wedding dress... so that when we need them we can search for them and take them out, only to find that they are like new and ready to use. Perhaps that is the whole point.