Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Gap Years

I'll always remember this moment from last week (I hope!)
I brag about the journals I kept for each of my five kids. My listener logically assumes that I have penned the story of my offsprings’ entire childhoods, day by day, even though an actual written reckoning would have made Proust’s massive oeuvre look like a grocery list.

So: true confession. I started a journal for each of them, with the first entry during my ninth month of pregnancy, filled with hopes and dreams for the babies I had yet to meet. Entry #2 was always written in the hospital. I’d sit there scribbling, with regular doses of Tylenol, and helpful nurses. It was easy to convince myself that this time, I’d be able to keep up the record books.

But then I’d get home. Home to feedings that seemed to stretch from 8 PM to 6 AM, with 10 minute catnaps in between, and the chaos caused by my resident toddlers. I would reach for journal and pen, only to discover that the pen was out of ink and I was out of steam. So the daily entries I had pledged to keep up, became weekly, bi-monthly, until finally there would be one or two annual posts, written in a frenzy during my VERY rare alone times. “Dearest PJ, It’s May and you are five! Can it be that the last time I wrote you were still in diapers and weren’t yet walking? How the time flies!”

I’d try to memorize their adorable quotes by writing them on whatever was handy (envelopes, index cards), but sometimes I’d forget which of my little darlings had said what cute thing. “Hmmm, that sounds like a Rose comment. Or is it?” In the end, every single time, the journals would peter out around age seven, never again to be updated. I’d swear to do better with the next little Seyfried in line, but never had the energy to follow through.

One night long ago, I asked my father to share a childhood memory—ANY childhood memory. I was desperate to connect with him, and he was so quiet and withdrawn. He thought for a few minutes, then shrugged. “Nope! Don’t remember anything!” I was appalled—how can you not remember your own life??

But then I look back and try to reconstruct some of those crazy years with five under age 10. Without journal entries, I am often at a loss. Names of teachers and coaches float randomly through my brain, disconnected from the children they were connected to. Summers down here in Lewes, playing Home Run Derby in the backyard, boogie boarding in the ocean. I remember it was (mostly) fun, but otherwise it’s just a snapshot here and there that lingers.

There will, alas, always be gap years in my memory—and that situation is bound to get worse. I can only try to fill in the gaps by recalling feelings. Joy. Pride. Love. Because, in the end, that’s my primary takeaway from parenthood. And I am lucky indeed.

My crew. Rehoboth Beach hasn't changed--but they sure have!

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