Friday, May 29, 2009

Whose Memory Book Is It, Anyway?

To commemorate Andrea's high school graduation in a few weeks, I'm creating a Memory Book of her class photos, report cards, momentos, a handful of essays and papers, special projects, awards and so on.

The Memory Book will fill four brightly-colored binders with more than 400 sheet protectors bulging with all facets of her school years, from first grade through high school.

Andrea will be teary-eyed, touched and delightfully surprised... until a few days after graduation. Then she'll set it aside until someday long into the future: a high school reunion perhaps, or her own children starting school. She has new, exciting dreams and goals. A shining future awaits her. A future that will build on her solid foundation, but will rarely involve looking backward.

Which made me wonder: Why, then, am I now putting such extraordinary effort and love into a Memory Book for her? Why did I hold onto every possible shred of her childhood? For that matter, why did I meticulously document (and film!) so many dozens of precious moments when she was a baby?

Sure, getting 12 years of Andrea's school junk out of my desk is welcome relief. And sure, it's a way of me letting go. That phase of her life is done. She'll soon be a legal adult and a college student. We've finished the task of raising and controlling her. Our roles are irrevocably changing.

But that hardly explains my driving passion. My deep love. My holding on. My intense desire to document and care about and affirm and remember and praise...

And then I realized: no one ever made a Memory Book for me. My young, hardworking, unsentimental parents never kept report cards, special papers or school pictures. They took few photos of me, my brother or sister. They attended only the minimum school events: back to school night, open house. No one ever kept a baby book/journal about me, like I did for all my kids. Like Ron's mother did for him.

My parents hugged us, or each other, very little. I have no memory of them telling Jeff, Teri or me that they loved us. We were never made to feel special or smart or unique or even all that worthwhile. We just were.

My parents, the children of generations of poor farmers, were too busy making a living, making a home, and trying to grasp city life. They both came from gruff stock and hard-scrabble backgrounds. Pretentious Pasadena was a strange, hard land to them.

Let's face the Truth: here I am, crazily lavishing on my last child all the attention and care that I never got. I suppose some people might find that unhealthy.

But upon soul-deep reflection, I've decided this: SO WHAT? So darn what?

Andrea's a great kid, and hasn't been unduly spoiled by my foibles. Frankly, there's a heck of a lot to celebrate about her achievements. If someone thinks I've gone overboard... well, too damn bad.

My child, my love, and I couldn't be prouder. And I refuse to leave my child with the same hole in her heart that I've worked for decades to fill with all manner of things good and not-so-good.

Today, I bought four pricey binders for Andrea's Memory Book, and some pretty stationary for notes and memories. Think she'll like them?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ultimate Backhanded Teenage Compliment

My high school senior received the ultimate backhanded compliment from a classmate this week in response to a glowing article about my daughter's academic feats in the local newspaper:

"My mother really thinks you're amazing."

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mother's Day Confession

My youngest (pictured left, dressed for her senior prom this evening) plans to take me out to lunch after church tomorrow to celebrate Mother's Day. She will also give me a thoughtfully chosen gift.

She would give me the world if she could, and if I asked for it.

My oldest, my 32 year old daughter, and her husband would also give me the world... or almost, anyway. Her life is busy, and I understand that. And she lives 1,000 miles away.

We have a terrific relationship. We talk, email and text all the time. We share similar temperaments and outlooks in many respects. So when I called her last Wednesday to not-so-subtly ask if she needed a Mother's Day gift suggestion, she was thrilled (and probably relieved, truth be known.). She promptly ordered for me that sage-green, leather-trimmed summer purse at J.Crew I have my eye on.

My 30 year old son is busy beyond all reasonableness. A husband, father to two very young (and adorable!) children, a man who works long and hard to make ends meet for his young family... he loves me deeply. I know that. He' ll be busy, though, honoring his wife. And on Mother's Day, she is always swept up in honoring her adoptive mother, who is two decades older than me.

I understand. I really understand... even though they live only ten miles away.

My 25 year old stepson, who I've known and loved for 21 years, will be honoring his mother tomorrow. They both live in Huntington Beach, just a couple miles from each other. And she has always been devoted to him.

I understand. I really understand that, no matter how kind or thoughtful or caring, stepmothers are forgotten on Mother's Day when mothers are fully present. I would have it no other way.

But, although I understand. I really understand, and I love our sons with all my heart... I have to confess: I THANK GOD every single darned day for my daughters!

Because they get it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mine that Bird Gives Hope to Longshots

Mine That Bird (pictured at left), a 50-to-1 longshot, won the Kentucky Derby two days ago.... the second longest of longshots to win in Derby history.

In fact, this delightfully bargain-basement horse, purchased by his owner for a mere $9,500, won the Derby convincingly by several lengths. And at the finsh, Mine That Bird was still widening the gap.

Sports Editor Phil Simms wrote at The Online Wire two days before the 2009 Derby:

"Mine That Bird needs to run a perfect race to beat the favored Kentucky Derby contenders thus his odds are worthy if you look for a huge payout.

Currently this horse is listed amongst the 4 biggest underdogs out of the 2009 Kentucky Derby odds at 50/1 and really deserves to be the biggest underdog considering how slow he’s ran in recent races."

Here's to you, Mine That Bird, from all of us who've been counted out, disregarded, or demeaned as slow, an underdog, unworthy...

Your victory lifts our spirits. You give us hope they we, too, can beat the odds... prove the critics and cynics wrong.... and leave the crowd cheering for more.