• When you were little

    My daughter, Lauren, loves stories about her escapades when she was little. She’s 26 now, but she still savors each tidbit. My son AJ, 24, couldn’t care less, but I know he’ll get interested when he has his own kids. He’ll want to know what he did to me. And I have written proof.

    I kept a journal from the time they were born until Lauren was 15 and it holds lots of stories from their early years. Toward the end, I only managed to write on their birthdays, but at least I summarized the year for them – their accomplishments, struggles, favorite TV shows and movies, friends, books, funny sayings and fads. Now that my memory is beginning to play games with me, this book has become even more precious.

    I recently decided to digitize the journal, in order to use the entries as scrapbooking prompts. I sent the first entry to Lauren because I knew she’d get a kick out of it. She enjoyed it so much, she asked me to send her every entry as I typed it. I figured this would motivate me to keep up with my own project. It took several months to complete, but what a trip down Memory Lane for us to share.

    It’s so easy to forget the details — to lose track of pivotal moments that provided early clues about emerging personalities. For example, Lauren has a temper. Most of the time she’s extremely good-natured but when crossed, she can switch gears in an instant:

    March 12 – One year old. “The folks witnessed one of her tantrums for the first time. I had taken her out of her rocking chair, which was sitting on the tiles in the entranceway. I noticed the look on her face and realized what was coming, so I told Grandpa to move her onto the carpet. She immediately dropped to her hands and knees, started to cry, and methodically banged her head onto the floor a couple of times. It was so abrupt that it was almost funny.

    When Lauren read this entry it gave her pause. “I can’t believe how early I started being me,” she said.

    I’ve also unearthed some nuggets about myself. I thought I had been pretty relaxed about household disorder, considering I was a professional organizer and this was my first child. But I must have given Lauren another impression:

    December 21 – 22 months. “Lauren was playing with her bath toys under the sink this morning. When I looked in there, everything was jumbled. I said to her, ‘What a mess,’ and she replied, ‘Oh gracious, oh darn, oh Christ.’” Whoops.

    Our stories give us so much information.

    My parents saved a letter written by my aunt when she was babysitting me. They were on a trip, and she was giving them the details of my day:

    October 26 – 3 years old. “Sunny must have learned some new words – ‘the other day’ and ‘you see.’ She started to tell me something that happened to her the other day and she became so engrossed in talking that a woman who was walking by stopped and asked me how old she was. I told her that she was 3, and she said that she thought that Sunny was giving some kind of lecture – you could understand every word.”

    And there you have it – the beginning of my public speaking career.

    Even AJ showed early evidence of what is now becoming a passionate course of study. I have a photo of him standing directly in front of the TV when he was about 13 months old, engrossed in a program about ocean life. Today he’s embarked on a graduate degree in marine biology.

    But the first entry I’ll share with AJ when he asks about his younger years is this:

    October 12 – 3 year old. “AJ’s been taking his time with toilet training, but he’s making progress. Of course it’s AJ’s type of progress. I sent him to Day Care with a pair of dinosaur underpants. According to Colleen, he was fine about taking his diaper off and putting the underpants on, but he went crazy when they tried to get him back into his jeans. They couldn’t let him run around with bare legs (it was cold that day), so they had to give up and stick him into a diaper again. It occurred to me that maybe the problem was that he wanted everyone to see his dinosaur underpants, which of course they couldn’t do with his jeans covering them. So the next day I sent him in with two pairs of dinosaur underpants. He very happily put on one pair under his jeans, and then put the other pair over them. Can’t you see me taking him out like that?”

    I’ve finished the journal project, but not the stories. I have a box on my desk full of file cards, and whenever I think of an old story, or experience a good new one, I jot it down on a card. One day I’ll be able to enlighten (embarrass!) my grandchildren, too.


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