My Mother’s Memories
From Jennifer Wade, co-creator of the Annuary.
My mom isn’t very sentimental. She is loving, generous, and enormously helpful to those around her, including me. But she’s always been more into simplicity than sentiment when it comes to storing things. She’s never kept a diary or written a detailed family tree. Last year, I asked her to fill in just one year of an annuary – two pages. She could pick any year she wanted to and write anything she remembered about that year. I knew better than to ask her to write about something in particular. She treated it like a homework assignment. I think she may have even rolled her eyes, like I was her 5th grade teacher and she was the pre-teen in the back asking me if this counted toward her grade. Ha! Fortunately for me, my mother is incapable of procrastination, so 2 days later, she turned in her completed assignment. (with perfect handwriting, of course)
I was stunned. She chose to write about her senior year of high school. She has talked about this time before since that is the year she started dating my dad. I have always struggled to really believe that she and my dad had full, real lives before I was born. It seems like a time I could always wave away and say, “yes, but that was so long ago.” Well, now that I have my own 7 year-old, who is also amazed at my stories from “long ago,” I’m starting to realize how fresh my parents’ own memories probably still are too. That was certainly made clear when I read how much my mom remembered from her last year of high school.
She wrote about her least favorite class (Latin) and her most favorite calculus tutor (my dad). She wrote about my uncle’s funeral and where she was when she heard that dad’s brother had passed away in a car accident. She talked about her own brother being in Vietnam and the car she and her sister shared. The style she chose was quite factual, a list of one or two-sentence memories, written in no particular order – I soaked up every word. What is so magical about these memories of hers that I never even experienced with her in the first place? Why is a young woman’s senior year so important to me now, already an adult mother myself? What I know is that I loved reading these two pages. She handed them over as if they were barely significant, not sure if she had done the assignment “correctly.” Even without a lyrical writing style, without some compelling plot, I knew I’d keep these stories for a long time. I even called up my three siblings and read them aloud to each one, so we could share this old news, renewed to us.
My mom isn’t very sentimental. Because of this, I just might get to tell her what I want for my birthday next year: two more pages. 🙂