by Joyce Kohl
Contrary to what their children may believe and though little has been written on this phenomena, mothers never forget the days their children arrived. Neither do they forget very much of the every day ho-hum tasks of rearing them. They do tend to forget the negative and concentrate on the positive. However, mothers may get mixed up as to which child did what if the number of her children exceeds the average 2.5 per household.
Is there a mother living who does not recall each pregnancy? Each onset of labor? Each birth? Forgetting would negate the wonders, the magic, the pride. My family began with a son, then six daughters. Seven bundles of joy; seven lives placed into my care; seven people added to the population explosion. Fifteen continuous years of washing diapers.
I can easily recall the arrival of each child. I just as easily remember the length of each labor. During each delivery as I stared upwards again at the brilliant lights on the ceiling of a delivery room, I wondered if it was my destiny to spend the major portion of my child-bearing years in the lithotomy position which was imposed upon women for the convenience of physicians and certainly not for the comfort of the woman. I began to long for the “change” talked about frequently by older female members of my family. I contemplated some frightening personal statistics: Three children in three years; twenty-five children in twenty-five years?
Each anniversary of each of my childen’s births remains vivid memories on each birthdate. I literally am able to step back in time and once again relive THE day; THE location; THE time; THE extreme joy and pride.
Memory Deposits and Withdrawals
Mothers have the ability to continually deposit new information to their permanent memory banks. A mother knows exactly when to make a withdrawal. While fathers deposit information as if to a savings account; withdrawal of information remains the special forte of females.
A woman creates detailed deposit slips a.k.a. notes; lists; calendar entries. Society sincerely believes it is the wife’s “job” to remind her husband of the birthday of HIS mother, HIS father, HIS siblings. The dutiful wife reminds, shops, wraps, mails. His role: Sign the cards.
Excluding specific dates, both my husband and I share many memories. We each carry separate and distinct memories which we shared on a one-to-one basis throughout the lives of our children through different activities that can only be experienced by either the father or the mother.
How well I remember . . .
. . . finding a horny toad in a dirt-filled Dixie cup on a young daughter’s dresser. I was horrified when I picked up what I believed to be a simple cup of dirt, then seeing a prehistoric creature jump upwards and almost out of the cup. For the millionth time I swore to never again try to clean up a child’s room!
. . . the day it took the better part of my morning to capture an escaped gerbil noisily building a nest behind the refrigerator from plastic broom straws.
. . . stepping barefoot in puppy do-do and piddle puddles.
. . . using extreme caution when emptying my son’s pockets on wash day. The bottle caps, nails, marbles, sometimes a yo-yo, and sometimes a particularly interesting-to-him crawly creature – though its lifeless carcass had long been forgotten.
. . . asking a simple “Who did it” would generate seven quick “not me” replies. I tended to frequently ask dumb questions such as these – always the same type of response from all children within hearing distance.
. . . a bedroom opaque with tiny feathers from my goose-down pillows as two young children gleefully shook them at each other.
. . . a two-year-old brushing a neighbor’s hair with water and discovering the source of the water was from the “toidy-too” [translation: toilet stool].
. . . a child who said “sliphouser” instead of houseslipper; “hopgrasser” for grasshopper and grew into an adult who to this day must carefully think about compound words before saying them aloud.
There are a million similar stories. Each could be the source of a chapter in a book, but since Ripley has already used the only fitting title, Believe It Or Not, I’ll have to pass.
The Important Dates
January 16, July 18, January 25, December 13, March 7, July 31, May 30. On the anniversary of each of my children’s birthdays I lovingly remember the first time I saw them; the first time I held them in my arms; the perfection of each little face; counting their fingers and toes; taking them home; marveling at the miracle of their births. Forget a birthday? Never.
I can describe each of the dates from beginning to end. I relive each precious date each year. I may not utter a solitary word, but my heart is filled to the brim as I silently begin each day with an acute awareness of its importance. Though there may no longer be cards or gifts sent, or a phone call made, there is no one in this world who remembers the birthdates of seven babies better than I do; their mother. I hug my precious memories tightly and selfishly – my feelings cannot be described; they cannot be properly shared. Any mother reading this WILL understand. No explanation of the depths of such feelings is necessary. If one doesn’t understand, no explanation would suffice anyhow.
As each grandchild and each great-grandchild is born, I add an entry on the calendar and one on a special list of all birthdates in our nuclear family. It is true I sometimes forget the exact dates and years of the offspring of my children and their children. But its only because I’ve forgotten to keep up with my “double-entry” bookkeeping. I habitually check the wall calendar daily. If a notation on the list doesn’t get copied correctly to the calendar, then I may mess up royally. Some births were on or around other important family dates or holidays which in turn provided memory hooks and are therefore more easily remembered.
There’s also the talent of “a woman’s instinct” which has popped up now and then. A feeling of needing to check the calendar again. Grandchildren hope I do forget . . . when I forget, a check for double the amount is mailed to them. This should give me an excuse to always be late, but I also am 99% certain my regular check and card is far more welcome than belated greetings.
Memories captured on the screen of my life are re-run often, complete with Dolby surround sound, in color, and always with a full box of tissues nearby.
There’s a famous line running through my head continuously as I write this:
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus . . .”
A few times over the years when word has gotten back to me via the family “grapevine” that because a child of mine did not hear from me directly on THE special day and thinks I have forgotten, I’m tempted to say:
“Yes, Virginia, I remember – mothers never forget . . .”