I have this childhood memory that I channel whenever I want to remember a time of pure peaceful innocence. In this memory (which might be a composite of many memories) I feel warm, loved, cared for, and complete. It’s a random 10 second snippet of time, yet it brings so much peace. The most amazing part is that my Mother managed to pull it off without Pinterest, Mommy Blogs, or a friend’s Facebook post.
In this snippet of memory, I am probably seven years old and back in my childhood house. I’m lying on the yellow linoleum of that 1970s kitchen, right by the refrigerator, where the fan is blowing warm air out at me. Soft music and traffic reports play out of the old clock radio my Mom set on top of the refrigerator. My sister is at the kitchen table nearby, probably coloring for her own enjoyment, because in 1980 we did not have homework in kindergarten. My Mom is cooking over at the stove and our cocker spaniel, Buffy, is right by her side. The house smells like dinner, which was spaghetti and meatballs. It’s cold outside and already dark, because this is winter in Massachusetts after all, but we’re in for the night so it doesn’t matter. We’re waiting for Dad to get home so we can eat.
And that’s it.
That’s the memory.
A saved mental video that I replay all the time. It’s so vivid, I can feel the warm air blowing on me, hear the traffic report updating an accident on Storrow Drive, and smell my Mom’s homemade tomato sauce.
I have no idea if there is some kind of mind science that explains why every sense of that memory has stayed so alive in me. It’s a pretty ordinary memory. Nothing of consequence happened that day. My childhood featured vacations, day trip excursions, and even scheduled Family Game Nights, and while I still remember all of those things and treasure those experiences, this is the memory I return to with the most fondness. This is what plays first in my mind when I remember my childhood.
We live in a world where so much is carefully curated. There are subscription boxes of clothes, beauty items and meal plans that are “meticulously chosen” for us based on our personal information. When Lindsey was in elementary school, one of the snack sign ups specifically asked for a Yule log shaped baked good for the class party. Chocolate chip cookies would not do, we needed carefully curated Christmas themed desserts. We try so carefully to curate the childhood of our kids as if we are in control of which perfectly planned memories they will hold tight. As if their hearts don’t have anything to say about it.
I often wonder what memories my kids will treasure. When they are adults and look back on their childhood, what are the moments that will encapsulate all of their senses and stir up all of the feelings and nostalgia for childhood innocence? I’m willing to bet it will surprise me in it’s ordinariness. We place so much emphasis on the carefully curated Activity, Vacation, Craft, Extracurricular, etc., but the real beauty of a happy childhood is in the mundane. It’s found in the random moments of doing ordinary life, being present, and loving your people.