While going through storage recently (gah, still so many boxes to sort and purge!), I leafed through pictures from my kids’ childhood—birthday parties, camping trips, museum visits, creek hikes—and wondered how much of it they remember.

I worked so hard to give them magic and joy when they were little. Homemade snake cakes for a jungle-themed party, projected movies on the garage door for all their neighborhood friends to enjoy, long car rides with snacks and activity bags for each of them, bedtime stories in our upstairs hallway alcove with me in the rocking chair and the four of them at my feet with their blankies and stuffed animals.

Most of what I did when they were little is probably no more than a hazy recollection at best, but I hope what remains is the feeling of warmth and love and security. Memories of laughter and hugs and late night songs and snuggles.

From her nursing home bed, Mom once lamented the fact that Carrie and I didn’t remember enough from our childhood.

“What about flying kites behind the Weston Elementary playground?” she asked as we sat by her side.

We’d looked at each other questioningly and shrugged our shoulders. Some of my childhood memories are vivid while others coalesce into a shimmery, surreal landscape. Are they my memories, or are they memories formed from hand-me-down stories?

“But I took you there a lot,” Mom said. “We’d pick out kites at Hook’s, and you’d each get to choose a candy bar, too. Then we’d drive to Weston.”

I remember Hook’s. I remember riding in the Chevette. I imagine I’d picked a rainbow-colored kite. That just made sense now.

But I don’t remember the actual kite flying. I could imagine it, though. Carrie would have been patient and slow and methodical with her efforts, her dimples as bright as the sun. I would have been running back and forth, tossing my kite randomly into the air, crying and throwing myself on the ground in a fit if I couldn’t get it to fly.

Mom would have then held my kite while I ran and ran until a gentle wind pulled the rainbows from her long, elegant fingers. She would probably still have been wearing the white, orthopedic shoes she wore at the doctor’s office. 

I know the kite flying happened because Mom said it happened. The warm breeze on my sunkissed and freckled face, the smell of the freshly mown grass, the green stains around the rubber edges of my knock-off sneakers, the last melty bit of a Snickers on the corner of my mouth.

Later that night, I would have washed my hair with Carrie’s bottle of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, but I wouldn’t have told her. She didn’t like it when I used her things without asking. I would have laid my freshly-shampooed head on Mom’s lap while we watched Lenny and Squiggy bust through Laverne and Shirley’s apartment door. My eyes would have grown heavy, and Mom would have tucked me into my twin bed with the comforter Granny bought me for Christmas. Later, Carrie would have curled into her own bed on the other side of our small, shared room. But I would have been long asleep by then.

The suggestion of the memory was enough.

Enough to make it real.

Enough to make it sacred.

Because I knew my mom and her love. I knew it in my bones. I still do. And it envelops me every day, every hour, every second of my life.

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