Postcards from Motherhood

Like you, I love to capture a moment on camera. At sporting events and birthday parties and vacations, my phone is in hand, ready to document the good times.

But recently I have realized that photos are not all that great as memory keepers. In fact, the more I look at photos of something, the less I actually remember of the moment. It’s almost as if my brain has said, Oh, good, you captured that moment. I can move that out of here to make space for things you don’t have documented. Pretty soon, when I try to remember what happened, all I see in my mind are the videos or pictures of what happened.

My father-in-law died of dementia. And if you’ve ever watched someone fade into the fog of forgetfulness, you know the urgency we all feel to never forget this moment is warranted, even while we know that memories are fleeting. So how does one capture the memories? How does one not forget?

I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes, when I have trouble falling asleep, I take out my mental image album and I will replay, and re-carve into me neuropathways, some of the memories I never want to forget.

Starting with my oldest, I will try to mentally recreate the moment my babies were born. I will close my eyes and see my doula, holding up a little, white, long-sleeved onesie and reassuring me, “She’s almost here.” I will hear my husband’s voice, choked with tears and relief as he tells me, “She’s out and it’s over, you’re done, you’re done.” I feel the grip of his fingers, the heavy, wet warmth of her body on my chest.

Over and over again.

Unlike a photo or a video, my memories engage all five of my senses. I swear, at times, it almost feels like time travel. Like I’m back in the moment and sending a postcard to my future self. I’m here and this is what it is like. I wish you were, too! Come visit soon!

So, I’ve started writing postcards to my future self. Invitations to travel back to this moment and relive this sometimes ordinary but always beautiful moment. Not just re-see this memory, really relive it.

They are short, just a paragraph or two, and they try to give a full, sensory description of the moment. I write one before I go to bed, or while I’m sitting at the sidelines. Not all the time. Just once in awhile when I get that heart-melting-I-want-to-stay-here-forever feeling. You know that feeling.

Want to write a Postcard from Motherhood? Read some below and let them spark your own. If you want to share, send me an email at mandy(dot)hamilton(at)gmail(dot) com and I’ll post your postcard here.

Sometime in 2015

Mae still lets you do her hair sometimes. Usually she washes it at night but today she has washed it in the morning and needs your help to blow it dry. Her hair is golden and long–think fairytale hair. But she is usually oblivious to its beauty and hates brushing it. You dry and brush her hair until it is straight and smooth as flax. Then you swoop her bangs with a barrett. She looks up and into the mirror. A mix of surprise and delight and pride spreads across her face as she realizes, “Wait…I’m pretty? Yes. I AM pretty.” She gently pats her hair and walks differently out of the bathroom, more carefully–like she’s balancing her beauty on the top of her head.

Wish you were here!

March 2017

We are riding in the backseat of a cab on the way home from basketball practice. It’s dark as we drive, but the illumination from the street lights and the occasional oncoming car headlights move across Lalo’s face and head. His glasses are slightly steamed on top, the heat of his sweaty eyebrows clouds them. His hair is darker around ears and neck, across his forehead, wet from sweat. This makes the flop of his blond bangs even more luminescent as the lights move across them. He is excited and proud of himself. He keeps re-playing how he drove and shot. He describes it again and again, not even waiting for you to weigh in. Finally he takes a deep breath and looks out the window. I can’t wait to tell Daddy, he says.

Wish you were here!

April 2016

Zev wants to snuggle before he goes to sleep. So you climb in and take your place, the side closest to the wall. He turns his face to you and talks in what we call affectionately a “stage whisper.” His little voice is husky and scratchy and his breath smells like a toothbrush. You say, “Say your prayers.” And he says, “You help me.” And you say, “You start” and off he goes. He prays fervently for his baseball game, a sport he is trying for the first time. “Please, oh please, help me get at least one hit in the baseball game.” His game isn’t for three weeks and you hug his soft, squishy, frog-belly closer, hoping to squeeze the worry out a little.

Wish you were here!

Postcards from friends:

April 2016

We are snuggled up together under his red comforter, reading bedtime stories, our favorite time of day. Noah is almost six, getting bigger every day, but he still fits perfectly in my arms as we cuddle up together. Tonight we are reading James and The Giant Peach, and he grins in anticipation as I open the book, a gap in his bottom teeth showing where he recently lost his first tooth.  As I read about the giant peach rolling down the hill and flattening the wicked Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, he explodes into a peal of giggles. I am startled and delighted by his sudden outburst, and I start to laugh, too.  “Mom, it’s too good, it’s just too good!” he says, burying his face into his monster blanket to try to stop the giggles.

Wish you were here!

May 2016

Sally gasps in disbelief, and I turn quickly to see what is the matter.  “Look, Mama! Rainbows!” she says with awe in her voice. Her two-year-old feet carry her quickly across the room and she plops down on the carpet in front of a string of sun spots that are coming in from the small window in the front door.  I look closely and notice that she’s right–there are small rainbows scattered across the carpet in the early morning light.  Fascinated, she puts her little hand in the middle of a sun spot and spreads her fingers, wiggling them in the colors.  “Try it, Mama!” she commands, and I put my hand next to hers.   I’m sure these rainbows have been here every morning since we moved here a year ago, but I have never noticed them before.  Today we start the day by hopping from one spot of sunlight to another, chasing the rainbows.

Wish you were here!

May 15, 2017

You started climbing ladders last week. Tall, upright ladders, ones made for 5-12 year olds, the sign says, but you’re only three. You climb them quickly, but at first you want me standing behind you as you climb, so you can rest on the way up. After a few days, you run up to the ladders on your own, but I quickly follow, wanting to still be that buffer between you and the ground. You humor me for awhile, and let me stand there, and I do catch a few foot falls and near misses. In a week, you want to do it “MYSELF!” I try to stand back from the ladder—close enough to catch you if you fall but far enough to make you feel independent. By accident, I lean forward and my hand grazes your leg, and you realize I am still there protecting you. “Don’t care about me!” you instruct me, firmly. “Don’t care about me!” You scurry up the rungs, slide down the three story tube slide and smile with glee as you run back to the ladder for more.

Wish you were here!

 

July 4, 2014

It’s getting late, and we decide to leave the fourth of July celebration before the fireworks start. You’re still unsure of fireworks. As we drive home from the big party, the sun goes down and the night turns dark. “Mommy!” you explain, “I’ve never been up this late!” I agree.

“I’m up with the nocturnal animals! Roll down my window!!” I do, and you start calling out to the woods of Ohio with overflowing excitement. “Hey bats! Hi! Hello, wolves! Hello, moose! Hello, owls! I’m awake, too!”

We see fireworks in the sky as we drive, the first time you’re seeing fireworks, and I wait for your response. You shrug. “But Mommy! The nocturnal animals!”

Wish you were here!

 

May 10, 2017

After a particularly long day, during a particularly long bout of sibling rivalry, I start to yell. Isaac has just kicked the board game across the room because Nathaniel was winning. After some apologies and resets, we decide to try the game at the kitchen counter. I’m hoping adding some snacks to the mix will improve everyone’s mood. I announce that Nathaniel will go first, as part of the restitution for the earlier incident. Isaac starts hysterically crying, moaning, “I wanted to go first! I wanted to go first!” As I look at the tears streaming down his face, I realize Nathaniel has launched into a full-blown cry as well. Tears and snot are coming down his face. “Nathaniel, why are you crying?” I try to ask patiently.

“I wanted to go second!!!” he wails.

Wish you were here!