Thursday, April 12, 2012

Overlapping Memories

Trish Herr's then five year old daughter Alex wanted to hike all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000+ foot mountains. Would you let your five year old do the same? Join From Left to Write on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

When I read this book, the moment that struck me most was after she and Alex encountered a young moose and their conversation about parents leaving their children.  Alex asks if her Mom will ever leave her, and Patricia promises her daughter that she never will.

In that moment, I had four very clear memories that practically overlapped themselves.  So I'll share them in the order they occurred, sans all the overlap (;

Memory #1 began with the thought that when I was around Alex's age, I don't recall -ever- asking my mother not to leave me.  Because my Mom was in the ARMY-- and leaving was pretty routine.  It was the coming back that always mattered.  Then I thought of the time that I was between 6 and 7 and my mother was in Korea.  My sister and I were staying with my grandparents in Connecticut.  And every week, my mother sent letters or packages home.  I clearly remember her sending us blankets, books, letters and tapes.  The tapes were her voice reading the letters and books to us.  Every night, we would listen to it.  And every night, I could safely go to sleep, the sound of my mother's voice in my ears.

Which led me to Memory #2, with my own little boys.  Neither of them have ever asked me not to leave them either.  But both of them, when they were between 3 and 5, without the other present and while snuggling at night, have promised never to leave me.  My oldest, when he was 5 told me that when he grew up, he would marry me.  I told him that I was already married to his Daddy and it would make his Daddy sad to lose his job being my husband.  So my son told me that he'd marry Grandmother, because she needed someone to take care of her.  I hugged my sweet little boy and let him know that I loved him very much and said that maybe we should take care of her now because she'd also been married and she'd be happier if he married someone closer to his own age when he grew up.  

My youngest told me that when he grew up, he was going to live with me.  I told him that when he grew up, he'd probably want to move out and start his own life, but that he would always be welcome to come and visit.  So then he told me that he would live in Ireland and visit me every night for dinner.

Which reminded me of Memory #3.  When my boys were little, and I'm talking 2 and 3 here, they were allowed to ride their tricycles through the house.  They would hop on and announce they were off to a grand adventure-- to Africa to see zebras, or to India to ride an elephant, or to England to see London Bridge fall down, sometimes, even to visit outer space.  And always, I would say to them, "Be good.  Have fun.  Take lots of pictures.  Send me a postcard.  Call often.  And remember that I love you!"  And off they would go.

Then they would come back all of 5 to 10 minutes later and announce that they were back from their trip.  And I would ask, "Were you good?"  "Yup!"  "Did you have fun?"  "Yup!"  "Did you take lots of pictures?"  "Yup!"  (and usually, this is where they'd been for the last 5-10 minutes-- drawing pictures of their adventure to show me.)  "The post card you sent was lovely!"  Now sometimes, they'd have their little toy phone in tow and we would have phone conversations and I would ask them about their adventure.  What they saw.  What they did.  What new foods they got to try.  And then they'd be off on their next adventure and a whole new round of pictures to tell me about it.

Intruding on these thoughts came Memory #4 and I'm 11 going on 12.  It's the closest to the original series of questions I've ever been.  My Mom and Dad have just gotten married this summer and he's moved in with us on base in Germany.  And out of the blue, my parents ask my sister and I if we want to move off base into a German apartment.

As one, my sister and I look at each other, our faces fall -- and we start bawling.  My baffled parents exchanged a look and my mother asks what's wrong.  Through my sobs, I answer her, "But!.... We're too -YOUNG- to live all by ourselves!!"

We thought our parents were asking us to move out.  In our minds, we were worried that because they now had each other-- they didn't want us any more.

After my parents laughed, they gathered us up, dried our tears and explained that wasn't what they meant at all-- that they were asking us if we wanted to move off base -with- them, all together as a family.

As clear as this part of the memory is-- for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what my sister and I thought regarding the actual offer.  I presume it must have been negative, because we did not, in fact, leave base until we were stationed back in the states.

And all of these thoughts danced across my mind, overlapping, in the span of seconds.  After laughing at how different my and my children's responses were to the same basic idea, I felt even more connection to Patricia Herr's "Up" and continued reading on.


  1. My daughter constantly tells me she'll never leave us and will always live with us. Both of us laugh and say we'll have to record that for posterity! Or play it back to her when she's 18. HA!

  2. My oldest vows to live with us forever, too (she's 6). We tell her that she'll have a place with us as long as she needs it, but I am careful never to confirm exactly what she's saying. Our next door neighbor died two years ago at age 41. He had three young kids. So my kids do ask about us dying and leaving them. It's tender and terrible.

  3. I love memory #2. We live near a high school and when my son (almost 3) and I walk by he always pretends he's headed to class. I ask him if he has his lunch money, tell him to listen in class and be kind to his friends. He thinks it's hysterical. He walks away and towards the school, only to return a minute or two later with stories about his day.

  4. That's so interesting. I don't know - or at least I don't remember - ever having those conversations with my parents. But my dad traveled on business constantly, so I was used to the coming and going since my mom would go with him sometimes, too. The wee one have never asked either. I wonder what causes that - either the asking or the not asking. I LOVE the memories and how this tied them together....


I'd love to hear your thoughts!