Memories of my children that I love:
1. When DJ was a baby I could take him anywhere. He was sweet-tempered, cooperative, and happy most of the time. I was within a year of earning my bachelors degree when he was born. I took him with me to class as a newborn in the spring, and that continued into the fall. Even when he became mobile (he walked at eight months), I was able to take him to class with me. He would play quietly with toys, eat snacks, and scribble on paper. I had a trumpet instructor who adored him. She would hold DJ on her lap and let him play with her necklaces made of large, colorful beads during my lesson. To this day, the faculty members remember my very well-behaved baby.
2. When she was born, Tabitha weighed about five pounds and was not quite seventeen inches long.. Her legs were skinnier than my index finger and she was too small for premie clothes. I made doll clothes for her. Adam, fourteen months older than Tabitha, believed that she was his personal property. We kept Tabitha bundled into a baby swing so Adam couldn't reach her and drag her about with him. He would stand beside the swing and demand, "My baby!" Knowing Tabitha was safe, and assuming Adam had the attention span of a typical one-year-old, I went about my own business (mountains of laundry to fold, or meals to make, or cleaning up Adam's most recent disaster...). Each time I looked over to check on my children, I noticed that Adam had managed to place one of his toys on the tray of the swing. I removed each item and explained that Tabitha was too little for such things. Adam gave me a look of disbelief and continued his offerings to his sister. About fifteen minutes later, I heard him giggling and clapping and chanting something in his unintelligible toddlerese. Glancing over to see what the commotion was about, I noticed that Tabitha had awakened and had somehow managed to grasp the Batman action figure offered by her brother. Adam turned to me and pointing to Tabitha, said very clearly, "See! My baby play!" I believe that was the last intelligible thing he said for nearly fifteen more years.
3. When Tabitha was two, I became very ill for about a week. The day the illness peaked, I was unable to do anything but sleep. I tried calling Darrin or my parents to see if I could get some help with Tabitha, but no one answered. I thought I would just lie down for a moment, then try phoning them later. I explained to Tabitha that I needed my nap, and left her watching one of her favorite videos in the family room. Then I went up to our living room where the sun was streaming through the windows, grabbed a blanket and pillow and fell asleep on the couch. I woke to Tabitha's voice. I was sleeping on my side and she had lodged herself in the crook of my bent legs. She noticed my half-open eyes, smiled at me, patted my shoulder and said, "You're sick. I will read you stories." She was holding one of her books and on the arm of the couch was a pile of at least ten more. I nodded, thanked her, and went back to sleep. I have no idea how long we stayed there. I would wake periodically as Tabitha patted my shoulder, waking me to ask how I was doing. Finally, she shook me gently. She was standing in front of me. I was told my lunch was ready and she had made me soup because that's what sick people eat. There was a large stainless steel bowl on the floor. Tabitha had filled it with water, an unpeeled banana, an apple, some baby carrots, and a block of cheese.
4. DJ was fascinated with motorized objects. At seven months old, he began imitating the sound of the vacuum with a rather shocking gutteral growl. By the time he was nine months old, the sound imitation happened when I used my food mixer, when I started the car, or when I turned on the washing machine or dryer. I had become used to the alarming noise coming from my small son. One day we were the produce department of the grocery store, DJ spied a mop in a bucket standing in the corner of the store. To my surprise, he pointed and the growling commenced. I tried hushing him. I told him the mop didn't make noise. He ignored me and continued the sound. I hurried to get the fruits and vegetables on my list, avoiding the eyes of nearby shoppers. After about a minute, one of them began to titter. Her reaction spread to the customers nearest her, and within seconds everyone in the department was giggling. I was mortified. The lady next to me reached over, touched my arm and said, "That's the funniest thing I've ever heard coming from a baby. He's adorable." I expressed relief that no one was annoyed and as I exited the produce department, someone started clapping. As everyone joined in, I realized that at nine months of age, DJ was receiving his first standing ovation.
5. When Adam was four, he refused for months to ride the bicycle given him for his birthday because it had training wheels. Darrin finally removed the wheels and tried coaching Adam about balancing. Adam told him he'd watched plenty of people and he knew exactly what he was doing. So my son began running with his bicycle, and when he judged it a proper speed, he leapt onto the vehicle and began peddling as fast as he could. He made it about two feet before he fell. Adam got up and began the process again. This time when the bike began to fall, he tipped it toward the lawn next to him. Then he stood up and started again. I couldn't watch. Fifteen minutes later, Adam appeared in the living room covered in grass stains, scrapes, and bruises. He huffed up the stairs to the bathroom. I heard the shower turn on and my son stayed in there for nearly an hour. The next morning the process began again. This time Adam didn't come back for a shower for almost half an hour. Four days later, Adam had finally learned to ride that bike. I was sitting on my front step, watching him, when I was joined by a neighbor. She said, "He finally did it." I nodded. She said, "I actually wasn't sure what he was doing when he started--trying to ride the bike, or learning the best way to fall off." I answered, "That's kind of the story of Adam's life. Don't worry. We have insurance for him--accident, medical, and life."
6. Adam and Tabitha became Looney Tunes fans at a very early age. I didn't mind because I watched the cartoons as a child and still loved them as an adult. My children found the scenes in which one character made another sneeze simply by putting pepper near their nose, particularly funny. One day I was in the kitchen making lunch for my chlldren when I heard Tabitha screaming. Adam's screams followed within seconds. I made it to the door of the kitchen in time to see them running out of Tabitha's bedroom, blood streaming from their noses. My alarm turned briefly to aggravation, and then to giggles, when I found out they had put pepper up each other's noses to see if it would make them sneeze. Adam said, as I handed the tissue box to him and instructed them both to clean themselves up, "It's not funny, Mom. You're supposed to kiss us better." I did kiss them better, but I didn't stop laughing.
7. From the time they were old enough to sit in the kitchen and watch, I have taught my children about cooking. They went from simply learning to add pasta to boiling water, judging when the pasta was cooked, and topping it with jarred sauce, to learning how to make a complete meal including dessert. This was always done with my help and presence, but when they turned nine and could read a recipe, they were allowed to make their first solo batch of chocolate chip cookies. DJ's were moderately successful but he had forgotten the eggs, so we had chocolate chip shortbread--still very good. Adam, naturally, decided to improve upon the recipe. He added two tablespoons of water (because he was certain he'd seen his great-grandmother do that) to the basic dough, and then some corn starch (to make the batter less runny) and then some corn syrup (just because) and then some milk (because milk is good with cookies) and then some rice crispies (because he likes them). The cookies were tough and weird and incredibly sweet. I suggested that sometimes it's okay to follow the recipe. His answer, "You never do. You don't even use a recipe." As that is true, I told him when we were both the same age, that would be a good time for him to stop following a recipe exactly (no, he didn't listen to me). Tabitha, on the other hand, who has often managed to observe her brother's mistakes and avoid them, made a perfect batch of cookies. She has continued that habit, and is allowed to make chocolate chip cookies weekly for the young ladies and home parents she lives with in the care center. She does not use a recipe.
8. On their birthdays my children are allowed to choose their favorite meal. They go shopping for the ingredients with me and help with preparation--it's our one on one time which is just as important as the meal. They also get to choose one gift within a given price range. When Adam was nine, we were shopping for the food and I asked him what he would like for his gift. He answered, "I can have anything?" I reminded him of the price range and, knowing my son, told him weapons and poisons were off the list. He said, "Please don't laugh, but I know exactly what I want." I promised not to laugh (not easy for me). Adam walked over to a display of flowers, selected a dozen orange roses, and returned to me. He said, "I want these." I didn't laugh. I bought the roses and that was the beginning of my tradition to buy flowers for my children on their birthdays. They've asked me to do so every year. Even after moving out, DJ still requests flowers, but he leaves them with me. He's pretty sure his roommates just won't understand.
9. When DJ was five he told told us while at dinner one evening that he planned to marry me when he grew up. Without thinking, I responded that he couldn't marry me. My son's lip began to quiver as he said, "But I love you. I want to marry you and live with you always." Realizing there was a tender heart at stake, I tried to tell him that I'd be an old lady then. In disbelief he said, "You're not going to get old. And anyway, I won't care if you are. I'll still love you." I tried to explain that he'd find a beautiful young lady he would want to be with forever, and I'd be happy because when they got married, she would be my new daughter. DJ said, "That's just weird. You already have a daughter." Finally Darrin dropped the bomb by saying, "Your can't marry Mom. She's already married to me." With a look of complete betrayal, and hurt pulsating through his voice, DJ turned on me, "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, and, weeping, he ran to his bedroom. Nonplussed, I looked at Darrin, "Now what do we do?" Darrin was unhelpful as he informed me that he had no idea. DJ didn't speak to Darrin for nearly a week. I was forgiven when I promised that, should Darrin and I get divorced, when DJ grew up, if he still wanted me to, I might consider marrying him. Darrin mutterred something about Oedipus. I was just glad DJ wasn't moping anymore. A few days later my son informed me I was off the hook. He was in love with, and would marry, Julie (our neighbor's little girl) because she had a pink Barbie car and she let him drive it.
10. There is no memory sweeter than reading to my children every night and tucking them into bed. DJ decided he was too old for bedtime stories when he was eight, but when I read to Tabitha and Adam, DJ would slip into the room and lie on the floor, pretending to read his book while he listened to the story. I believe I tucked them all in, hugged and kissed them every night, until they entered junior high. At that point the hugs and kisses happened after nightly family prayer, but sometimes I still walked up to their rooms with them, chatted with them briefly, and made sure they had what they needed before leaving them to sleep. I have been known to sit quietly, watching them sleep as infants and children, and even now, when they're in their teens and slightly older, I feel an impulse to touch their hair or cuddle them just for a moment when I see them napping on the couch. They would be very unhappy I disturbed their sleep if I gave in to such an impulse. But I'm so very glad these amazing people came to spend their infancy, childhood, and teen years with me. I'm hoping when they're older, they'll always know they have a place in my home and in my heart.