If Memories Are Forever…Who Will Remember You?

by Benedicta Onyero Droese

In everyone’s life, man or woman, there comes that moment – a rude awakening – or perhaps a time of reckoning. In that one fleeting second, you realize that you need to sh*t or get off the pot, as the Americans love to say.

I was browsing the pages of a local magazine when a cartoon contest themed “Happy Mother’s Day”, caught my eye. I casually mentioned it to my 10-year-old daughter who loves to sketch and write short stories. I thought she might be interested in submitting an entry.  “What exactly do I have to do?” she asked. ” Well, it’s very simple” I began.  “You just have to draw and color a picture of one of your favorite things to do with your mom”

 She shot me a brief stare, slumped into a sofa and became completely quiet.   Great! Seems like she’s trying to come up with something really special. I thought.  Then she spoke…

“Mom, there isn’t a single thing that you and I do together!” I glared. She frowned. “Well, how am I supposed to come up with anything?” First, my jaw dropped. True or not, this was definitely not the type of response any Mother wants to hear from her child.  Except…could she be telling the gospel truth? I didn’t want to hear it!  I was flustered; yet, convinced that she most likely didn’t understand the question.   I had to give it another whack! “Listen honey, if I were to die today, would you remember me?”

The tense muscles on her face relaxed into a wide grin. “Of course I’d remember you,” she replied. “You’re our mom.” She paused. I frowned. Then she continued with “well, you make us home made waffles; rice, tuna and broccoli; you do our laundry, vacuum …yadi, yada, yadi, …” Yep, exactly everything a professional maid can do better! Where had I gone wrong?  Was there anyone I could point my fingers at? My Dad came to mind…maybe the blood of that mean spirited, emotionally distant; son of a gun flowed through me after all. Yep, life’s not fair! I could whine and feel sorry for myself or pick up my lemons and Google recipes for some kick butt lemon meringue pie (I’ll pass on the lemonade.) Either way, there was a problem; and I had to start digging to get to the bottom …

John and I were members of a Miami based local band at a time when the south beach music scene buzzed with new acts and churned out more performers than performance venues. The competition was fierce.  Paying gigs were few and far between. To make ends meet, we leaned heavily on Visa and MasterCard. So, with every swipe of our credit card, the hole got deeper.And “if life is the art of drawing without an eraser” according to John W. Gardner, a baby was on the way and we needed to make some serious plans fast! The cost of having a child without the shield of any medical insurance was waiting to bury us alive!

Shortly after Sidney’s birth, I received a job offer! As one of the program coordinators for a local teaching hospital, I would design training materials and manage the logistics for new hire orientation. The pay was fairly decent; we desperately needed the money.  But who would care for the baby?  John and I talked.  We reasoned.  In the end, we both agreed that daycare was not an option.  Interesting horror stories about childcare facilities floated around like snowflakes, at that time. There was only one solution.John would have to quit the band and become Mr. Mom for the next couple of years…

Each day new surprises awaited me as soon as I walked through the front door. “Guess what?” my husband would exclaim, “The baby said “Mama” or, “she rolled over from her stomach to her back.  I was away on some company retreat when he phoned to tell me that Sidney had suffered an allergic reaction to peanut butter and had to be rushed to the nearest urgent care center. She had allergies? Who would have thought!

Anyhow, as she grew older, I noticed that our relationship strained under an awkwardness that I couldn’t place. The affectionate bond and closeness that should naturally hold a mother and daughter together was missing. I quickly labeled her detached disposition as “growing pains”. A phase I thought she’d ultimately outgrow. But the wall between us never bulged. I didn’t know how to break through…

Now, it was obvious by her response “Mom, there isn’t a single thing that you and I do together”, that I was trying to reap what I had not sown!  How on earth did I expect her to pull from a well I had not taken the time to fill? That night as I pulled the covers over my head, I secretly vowed to turn over a new leaf.

Thanks to a recent episode of Dr Phil, I learned that the key to building a close relationship with any child is to find a place, a thing or an activity that they enjoy and can share with you. At times we have to step out of our comfort zones, into their world in order to relate to them – one on one.Sidney is about to become a teenager and we’re both making gradual progress. We continue to develop special ways to show affection. We play tag, crack jokes; make fun of each other and I even let her get away with calling me a “bonehead” Once, she jokingly told me to shut my “pie hole” when I’ve had too much coffee and can’t seem to quit blabbering about everything.  Would I ever stop kicking and screaming each time she drags me to the mall to window shop? Never!  Would I eventually get tired of staying up late on the weekends to watch Harry Potter, or another one of her favorite movie collections? I’m already there!   However, should she one day consider me cool enough to go roller-skating with her, I’ll gladly put on my tennis shoes and trail behind! If she should ask, “Mom, can we go biking” on some nature trail at a nearby state park, I’ll make sure that my bike has new sets of training wheels. A few days ago, she overhead me telling her father that I wanted to learn how to speak French. “Why don’t you and I take Spanish instead?” she asked.  I guess I’ll see her in some Spanish 101class by next spring. Who knows, maybe she would graciously allow me to sit next to her in class.

Many of us make career choices with the best interest of our children in mind.  The rationale is this…we grew up with very little or nothing, so we must work harder to provide them with everything we lacked. Some of us pawn our kids off to complete strangers to care for them while we endlessly chase the almighty Dollar.Habitually, our driving force mutates into the need to achieve, so as to impress those who could really care less about us. We spend less time at home, more at the workplace!  Let me ask you this, what are some of your favorite childhood memories?Personally, I have zero reminiscences of the day I finally received that new pair of shoes I had been eyeballing all year long or that “Made in England” designer dress I wanted for Christmas and thought I couldn’t live without.  Yet, at the age of 42, images of me squealing with excitement each time my mom splashed a bowl of cool water over my head during our “bath time” still fill me with warmth, like a cup of hot cocoa on a chilly morning.  Vivid recollections of us sitting on the kitchen floor – watching and listening – to the pop, pop, pop, of our corn on the cob roasting by the wood fire are never far from my mind.  Most of all, I could never forget those mesmerizing bed-time folk tales she told every evening under the hypnotic glow of a kerosene night lamp before she tucked me into bed…

As for Sidney and me, I shall keep my fingers crossed and hope that when that contest comes around again, her biggest challenge would be… trying to pick her favorite pastime with her mom from a very long list! More importantly, I hope that someday, when I’m gone, my daughter would have memories of her own to cherish – Memories that we had made together – Memories that would make her fuzzy on the inside like the warm e

mbrace of a summer sea breeze.

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but moments according to Rose Kennedy. If memories are forever, who will remember you?

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kennedy November 27, 2006 - 11:57 am

Once again u have aroused that feeling in me which makes me home sick. U and Sabella are my favourite writers and once more u have distinguished yourself as one of the best in this site. I was salivating when i was reading about the corn on fire popping.kids are kids but u always have to draw a line and dont give them much latitude otherwise they will abuse it. That u are trying to make up for the lost time should not warrant her to call u names or tell u to shut your pie hole. Its awesomely nice to be child friendly especially to your kid but it is imperative to know when to draw the line. Spare the rod and spoil the child.I now know why we have and share similar experience, we are in the same age bracket and it would have been so nice if u had taken up the french lesson so that i can always submit my comments in french.I reside in Paris.

Anonymous November 26, 2006 - 2:34 pm

It's good that you became more involved in her life. It's ok to be a cool mom and all…do not forget to draw the line of discipline and establish who's in charge.

Odeyemi Ayobami November 22, 2006 - 5:11 am

Same here, the only memories I have of my childhood are the time spent on my Dad's lap and on the bed with my Mummy gisting about nothing in particular.Well, you have to decide on whch to give your children , your money or your time and attention, and if you are smart enough , you could give both,kip being a good mother, but do not forget to correct her whenever she goes wrong, don't make same mistake the oyinbos and akatas make.

Ebikienmo Cameron November 21, 2006 - 10:23 am

i really feel for you but now you know your daughters mind you can still make up with her thanks


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