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Chatterbox: A waterfall from a mug


Chatterbox July 15, 2004 talked about what giving our time and attention to our little ones does for them in their lives. It talked about making memories. Well, several Chattercolumns have talked about various ways we make memories, intentionally or not, in a split second, for family, friends, even strangers.

On Facebook last week, as part of Halloween’s Facebook fare, there were snapshots of several of my grandchildren’s Halloween adventures at their homes. There were also photographs taken in my own kitchen of my grandsons and my daughter, carving their huge pumpkin. Their great excitement reminded me how critical the simple moments of every day become. However, it was the photograph of a Halloween mug that moved me to tears, and made me realize just how invisible building a memory can be.

We all go through our days, doing laundry, putting pictures on our fridge, making paper snowflakes with little ones, or flipping pancakes. We never fully realize that many of these ordinary things become indelible images of childhood for our children and grandchildren.

The simple movements of daily life for each of us, as we live it, echo forever. They run, like lava, through the lives of those we love, and become the rock on which they walk their path. Heavy? Yes, but it can also float.

As adults, we look back to our childhood and the things we lived. Some are the things we loved. Others may be the negatives we struggle not to repeat. Even, for some, if our life was sometimes difficult, there was still one person who smiled, or chatted for a moment, or made us believe we were terrific.

For most of us, there was more. We had family or a grandparent who always pinched our cheek or made a fuss over our scribbled artwork. My grandmother always waited for me with Italian cookies or, believe it or not … Jell-O. We never know what wonderful little gesture we make, completely unaware of it, will create a wonderful memory for those we treasure.

The crazy Halloween mug, bought at a dollar store in a moment of “joie de vivre,” is one of many things that still represent childhood for my kids. Who knew? One shudders to think what will happen if we break it … it will probably get a burial place next to the goldfish in our yard.

We all create these enduring memories without ever knowing it and, since we don’t all raise kids or have grandchildren nearby, those moments will be different for each of us. Still, no matter whom we interact with as we offer a place in our daily life to share, we create those memories, and our movements will become the font from which they flow.

We won’t really see it happening. We move through our lives, our homes, our kitchens and we see only daily actions of living. We work, cook, raise our kids, make costumes, celebrate holidays, whatever. It’s just life but, for those to whom we give that time and for whom we make that effort, it’s the wellspring from which they will draw their memories. They’ll use them to forge friendships and comforting parenting skills, or induce rip-roaring laughter with jovial kids.

To us, it’s just what we do every day… giving our time and love, or just surviving another difficult moment, hopefully, with grace. Then, one day, we’ll see one picture on Facebook of a pumpkin-faced mug that has achieved iconic status simply through individual moments in time, and we’ll have a revelation.

I remember my grandmother’s house with those Italian cookies, meatballs and that Jell-O. My kids remember their grandparents’ Christmas dinners, pool parties, and … yes, meatballs. My grandies will remember impromptu dinners, my crazy aprons, pumpkin pie and … okay, meatballs.

All of us travel through the simple, singular, and presumably forgotten moments. As we do, we create a waterfall, and waterfalls don’t flow by and evaporate; every drop will flow down only to eventually rise and flow again, in a process barely noticed yet infinitely and uniquely powerful.

Our daily life is a simple but profound process, occurring without any finite notice of the moment to moment mechanics – until, one day, when the snapshot of a $1 mug makes us cry.