making memories

On vacation with the kids in Florida this week, and relearning the motherhood lesson that while Making Memories must be the priority of spending time away with one’s children, what those Memories consist of for my children may not be what I set out to create.

The Space Shuttle mission STS-119 took off 4 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes ago, as of this writing, and I was thrilled to tears to be on the beach in Cocoa Beach, about 15 miles away, to see (and hear) the grandeur of a space shuttle launch, perhaps one of the last in history, since the space shuttle program is due to be phased out over the next few years. I haven’t uploaded my photos yet, I’m lame that way, but it was a Bucket List experience, I assure you. Both of my boys love space, and I’d been talking it up to them all day. “You’ll tell your grandchildren about this!” I exhorted. “We are going to see the REAL space shuttle going up to SPACE with REAL ASTRONAUTS INSIDE!”

And yet, as we stood on the beach, with hundreds of others, watching the smoke trails reflect orange and pink in the sunset, watching what I was told was the clearest view on the clearest night that anyone on the beach could remember, my two boys were much more interested in rolling around in the sand. “Boys! Watch!! The rocket boosters are separating!!” I yelled, and they looked for a moment at the tiny balls of flame falling to the ocean, and then get distracted once more by their sand-throwing games. Maddie, in the sling, at least pointed to the sky a few times. “Yes, honey,” I said, glad to have a captive audience. “That’s the space shuttle, you’re never going to forget this.” Not.

The next day, I was at the beach with Fergus. “Want to dig a hole, Mommy?!” he said. Trying to match his enthusiasm, I dug with him, using our hands since I hadn’t thought to bring a shovel. “What’s this hole for, honey?” I finally asked, once it was big enough for him to stand in up to his waist. “All the ocean water is going to go in dis hole!” he declared. Then we sat together and waited for the waves to overtake the hole.

After a while, it started to dawn on me that the waves seemed to be getting farther away rather than closer. So I checked the tide schedule on the lifeguard’s chair, only to find that, indeed, the next time that the waves would fill our hole was about 18 hours away.

I broke the news to Fergus gently, expecting a meltdown. Instead, he jumped up, grabbed a few handfuls of dried up seaweed, and threw them in the hole. “Now we buwy dis tweasure!” he declared. “And den, somebody else will FIND de tweasure!” And we put all the sand back in the hole we had just dug, negating, at least in my mind, the entire point of the last half hour.

But that wasn’t how he saw it. Digging a hole, and then filling it back up, was his idea of a perfect afternoon. And if his trip to see the space shuttle launch was more memorable, in his eyes, for the two Shirley Temples he had at the restaurant beforehand, then so be it. I had set out to make memories with him, and while they weren’t what I expected, they were wonderful, just the same.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Hillary @ The Other Mama March 28, 2009 at 4:21 am

Hey Amy!
I just saw MotherLoad last night in Huntsville, Al and it was AMAZING! L-O-V-E-D it! {Do you knoe the trouble I went through for that dash emphasis? What with the shifting and not shifting and all? THAT is love!}
Love your blog, too! And I have to tell you that I worked at the space center here in HSV and have never seen a shuttle launch. I missed a handful and saw on from the airplane, but have never seen one from the GI-NORMOUS clock you referenced. Just tell your kids over and over that they saw it. {I’m sure you will anyway.} And tell them how touched they were, etc. Nothing like programming those memories in there.
That’s what I’m planning on doing about our *memorable* Christmases.

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Hillary @ The Other Mama March 28, 2009 at 4:22 am

Or “know” the trouble. You knoE. whatev.

and “one” from the airplane.
Good gravy. Mama needs a spell checker for the first grade spelling words.

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AmyEmilia May 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Thank you… an beautiful post. This is true for adults as well. I recently attended an event with my 84 year old father, and the most memory-worthy event of the day was NOT when he got an award from his peers for lifetime achievement (although well deserved). It was the time between events when we sat in a corner and he asked me for a lesson on how to use the cell phone I got him, and we spent a happy hour looking at family photos on my iPhone. Precious.

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Question May 1, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I agree with your blog that we don’t often get to choose what experiences our children get from our efforts to make memories. And I agree with Hillary that you can reinforce the real memory with stories that are almost as good.

I took my oldest daughter to Disney World at 6 – at 26 she does not remember it at ALL???

I took my daughters in their late teens to Europe and could hardly get them out of bed and into the cities each day – they prefered to watch tv and sleep in – generally act like teenagers they were. Fortunately I also took a 22 year old and another adult – who did get that this was a unique experience.

I guess the lesson is either let go or make sure you take them when they are old enough to remember/care/be interested.

I took the kids back to Disney at 12 – much better experience.

Now we have to get them back to Europe…….

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