Every day, I start my Creative Writing class with 10 minutes of silent free-writing. Today’s prompt asked them to think about the funniest moments of their lives: something embarrassing, a time when they couldn’t stop laughing, the funniest thing they’ve seen or heard. I took attendance and started writing.
I began by listing things from my childhood: the time in first grade that I forgot to lock the door to the class bathroom and a classmate opened it. The slow crack of florescent light spilling around the edge of the door, my mouth freezing as it swung open, the oceanic expanse of tile and carpet that separated six-year-old me from my classmates, huddled on the sharing circle, all eyes sliding over to my tiny body perched on the porcelain throne, my hot pink leggings around my ankles. Trauma!
I kept going. Moment after moment spilled out — playing with my sister at our grandparents’ apartment in the Catskills; the time my friends and I dared each other to eat dog food sandwiches; that camping trip when I sang along to the Mariah Carey tape in my Walkman so loudly, oblivious beneath the cover of night and the security of my headphones, that all the surrounding tents could hear.
And as I sat there, I realized that at the periphery of most of these memories were my parents, and more specifically, my mother. She towered above my memories in a way that parents must for every child — those inky, blurry images of perfection.
Now, I think I realize, this is the gift of parenthood: that my son will someday look back upon his own childhood and have those same memories of me. Others will hold me in their memories, too; my husband, our friends, other family members, my students. Only K will remember when my body was enormous and soft and safe, when the smell of me meant home, when trying to spy on me was fun, when I was infallible and all-knowing. Like old photographs, curled at the edges, the image distorted a little by time and imagination — someday, those memories will be his own personal Rorschach test for love.