I got the unusual Sunday morning privilege of bringing my son to hockey this morning. Usually, I go to church to hear Hannah sing on the worship team while Jeff brings Ben to the rink, but today Jeff had some things to do and Hannah is in India, so I got to be the lucky hockey mom (that was not sarcasm. I really like it). While Ben was getting his gear on, I decided to go to the car wash before it got too busy. It’s a familiar car wash, on a familiar road, in a familiar town. During our homeschool years, this was our place. We spent many hours driving between the rink, the rock climbing place, guitar lessons, Lego-robot building class, and our very familiar eating establishments, where we spent many hours studying and learning vocabulary while eating mac and cheese.
I’m not sure why today my mind has decided to take a walk down memory lane, but nevertheless, we know as moms that our minds have a mind of their own, and mine has decided to slam me with memories this morning. Maybe it’s because while Hannah has been in India we have spent some time doing some of Ben’s old faves; rock climbing with a friend after the game last night for example. While driving from the rink to Granite Arch, Ben started pointing out our old hangouts to his friend– “This is where we ate lunch after guitar lessons on Tuesdays”, and ” “Hey, I remember we would go to that Pinkberry a lot” (apparently we spent the homeschool years constantly eating…). While Jeff was belaying them while they climbed, I sat and read a book on that familiar orange faux leather couch at Granite Arch, the floor heater churning at my feet; the heater that the owner brought in one day FOR ME years ago because he noticed me shivering during Ben’s lessons every week. “Hey!” I said to Jeff. “That’s MY heater! I sat here and read The Bee Eater by Michelle Rhee right here with that heater at my feet. He smiled at me. Jeff knows by now that those statements that I make from memories may very well lead to an emotional heap of misty tears on the bathroom floor. He is happy at the memory, but concerned at the effect of it on me these days.
And of course, poor Ben has had to tolerate (he didn’t hate it though, I hope!) my constant voice in his ear while Hannah’s been away. “Want to do Legos?” I ask him while he’s deeply enmeshed in his Xbox single player driving game. “Want to switch games and we can play a double player like we used to?” He gives me the same smile Jeff keeps giving me. “How about in a little while?” he says. “Of course, Benny”, I tell him. I’m happy he’s having a great time.
But, on the way here today, something strange happened. I got to the bottom of my travel coffee cup and tasted strong sugar. You know those smells and tastes and sights that take you back to a place that you didn’t know you had a connection to? Like Suave hairspray makes me think of my large-banged 80’s days wearing Z Cavaricci’s and sharing mushroom swiss burgers with my Jill before football games. Well, that strong sugar and strong coffee in the bottom of my cup did that for me.
We Three Muskateers were in the car a lot for various reasons during the kids’ homeschool years. We drove to LA many times for auditions and jobs; we took field trips to break the monotony of having school in the house; we had season tickets to Discovery Kingdom and went there often; the kids took ski lessons and we drove up to Sierra in the early mornings week after week in the winter. As I took that swig this morning, specific points in the road raced into my mind; the stretch of road before reaching the turn for the 505; the exit for getting gas in Santa Nella, passing the turn up to our old house in Brownsville on the way to Sierra (sitting in that lodge is where I wrote the first VGK blog that would change the view of our future). These places in the road are where I would always get to that last drink of coffee in my travel cup on those journeys. These spots that mark my past on the road that lead to this future. And I’m not feeling, wait for it, it’s a shocker: I’m not feeling like crying! Something very important entered my head for the first time ever. I can’t believe I’m about to say it! All those trips, all those events that I made happen for the kids benefit, all those full days that Jeff and I created so that the kids could look back and feel good about, well, they were about me too! Mommies! Those times were meant for us, too! We must embrace each moment not just to provide for our children, but to instill foundational memories for ourselves. We matter and it matters that we know this!
I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know that the intention of my mommyhood would be to provide care, love, experiences, joy, discipline, and guidance for Hannah and Ben, but also to create spaces in time that were for me! Those times mean something to me not just for what they did for the kids, but also based on my enjoyment of them. Even if the kids didn’t get as much out of them as I had hoped, they are still important, just because I am important! The sooner we understand this, the more rich the moments are. The times we don’t embrace as our own will be lacking a vital piece of the puzzle.
In fact, I chuckled in the car when I took that last drink of my coffee today and Ben asked my what was funny. I smiled and told him it made me remember this car ride, and that trip to here or there. I mentioned the homeschool trips to Discovery Kingdom, and a look of confusion hit the boy’s face. “I don’t remember that”, he says to me. My forehead wrinkles and my eyes squint in immediate frustration. “You don’t remember?” “Nope”, he says. And at that moment, a weird peace came over me and my scrunchy face relaxed. “That’s okay,” I told him. “I do”.