Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Memory Lane

Me, around three to five. I think the credit
for the photo goes to my cousin. The annoyed
look is all my own!
Every Saturday, and often other times during the week, I talk to my mother. We do text and e-mail,  but those are often quick ("What time are you coming over?" when they are in town) or to share a link or photo. If I need an answer or story right then, it's easier to give her a call. On Saturdays, though, we usually chat longer because Adam has the kids and I can actually . . . talk on the phone!

Even though my parents are well beyond the baby stage (the baby in the family is married with two kids) and are enjoying their empty nest, my mom still keeps up with attachment and natural parenting worlds. She has worked with young children and parents for many years and this stage of life just interests her. So, naturally, she has seen and heard of the TIME Magazine cover.

"Can you believe it?" she asked me. "They posed the mother and baby just to get a rise out of people. Oh, please this is nothing new! When we lived in Ithaca, most of my friends nursed toddlers and preschoolers."

I lived in Ithaca until I was ten. My mother had lived on the same property since she was ten. My bedroom in our house was her old bedroom. Until she passed away, my grandmother lived with us, in the same house she had shared with her husband and children. (My mother's older sister had moved out by the time my grandparents had moved there.) My parents have not lived in Ithaca since 1989 but our roots run deep there. My grandparents are buried in the local cemetery. Recently, my parents went back to the town to visit friends; the owners of a local diner recognized my parents.

1982. This Nativity is the reason I have a devotion to the Nativity.
(Yes, I am wearing my Strawberry Shortcake costume under my coat.)
Out of my siblings and myself, I am the only one who clearly remembers our time in that area. In some ways, I feel like this is a special bond between my parents and I. I remember my grandmother, my older cousins, the rolling fog on the hills, apple picking and the fields filled with dandelions. I remember when our cats were outside cats, and having a gravel driveway. And who can forget our elderly neighbor who would walk across our three acres of land every day to go swimming in the creek? These are things my siblings have only vague memories of, or events that happened before they were born. Selfishly, I kinda like that this is just between my parents and me.

You see, life changed when I was ten. We began moving around with the military. We lived overseas, on military bases. If my early years were filled with eccentric neighbors, an old farmhouse and lazy country days, my teenage years were filled with military cameo, base housing and knowledge that the country I lived in could go to war at any time. Instead of working in a hospital taking care of farm injuries, my father was making sure military hospitals were ready in case of an attack. My siblings and I share the same memories- a bit different, perhaps, because of the stages of life we were in, but the same memories nevertheless.

No, life wasn't better when we lived in Ithaca. Military life wasn't worse. I wouldn't change my time moving with the military for anything. (It is, after all, how I met my husband!) They were just different time periods, different stages in my life, when different things happened. Different isn't bad. Different is just that: different.

I learned more about my childhood Saturday. My mother had the same indignation that my friends and I share ("How do those people think society survived all these years if people didn't nurse beyond one?"). She laughed when I said, "Mom, sorry, but I am NOT scarred for life because you nursed me for two years!" She told me that a childhood friend of mine was nursed with her younger sibling- "Oh, yes, my friends tandem nursed too!" I came away from our phone call smiling.

In a moment on Saturday, a cover picture that divided people in "camps" in the "Mommy Wars" brought a mother and daughter closer together. It reminded me of a time in my life when things seemed easier (though they weren't). It reminded me that my friends and I aren't extreme or freaks or screwing up our children . . . we are parenting in a way that people have parented for centuries, with love and attachment.

(The above photo of me in front of the nativity is one of my favorite photos. I have very clear memories of standing in front of the church, wanting to hold and touch the baby Jesus. Mom once told me that the minister thought the plastic nativity was too garnish or materialistic... until she saw me standing in front of it, just staring at the figures. She realized then that it was helping to teach the children about the first Nativity.
On a side note, I wonder what my grandmother would think about having her picture on the Internet!~WaldenMommy)

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