Taking a family trip down memory lane

I re­cently got in­to a dis­cus­sion with our daugh­ters about their memor­ies. At this stage of my own life, I want to know what “took,” and I thought I did.

Cer­tainly, our fam­ily trip to Cali­for­nia wrapped in memor­ies of Big Sur and Hearst Castle and Fish­er­man’s Wharf, where they de­voured sea­food and loved the ware­houses-turned-shop­ping com­plexes.

Ab­so­lutely, their in­di­vidu­al bat mitzvahs, so long an­ti­cip­ated, so ear­marked with meta­phor­ic neon let­ters spelling out “Mile­stone.” And surely, oth­er big fam­ily events — an­niversar­ies, birth­days, the wed­dings they were taken to as tykes, and then their own.

Sur­prise, sur­prise! While those were men­tioned late and briefly, our daugh­ters hearkened back to the things we nev­er could have ima­gined, the tiny, un­re­mark­able snip­pets of fam­ily life that we thought had gone un­noticed.

All three daugh­ters talked about the kit­chen floor. Yes, the kit­chen floor.

In the house in which they grew up, that floor was ter­ra­cotta, which hid a mul­ti­tude of sins. It was some­what bumpy, and not the most com­fort­able sur­face in the world. But it was on that floor that we would plop down after din­ner on those nights when nobody had to rush out. Amy would lean against the pantry closet door, Jill would sit propped up against the dish­wash­er, and Nancy would of­ten sit with her legs fol­ded un­der her right in the middle.

I can’t ex­plain why so many secrets spilled out, so many in­hib­i­tions came un­done on the kit­chen floor. But they did. We talked end­lessly. We laughed up­roari­ously about noth­ing. 

It’s been years since our last kit­chen floor “party.” But as my daugh­ters re­membered that scene, so did I — with such long­ing and nos­tal­gia that it al­most made me weep. Kids DO in­hale the spir­it of fam­ily life when you least ex­pect it. They DO store away the trifles you thought they’d for­get.

I love know­ing how our kids pro­cessed their child­hoods and those tu­mul­tu­ous ad­oles­cent years. I love hear­ing about those trifles that are re­membered in the clut­ter of im­ages we bring to adult­hood. And more and more, I need those touch­stones to our daugh­ters as the years slip away on both sides.

Who would have guessed it — they even had lov­ing re­mem­brances of the “Beep Game” that they played on our old green sofa with their dad. No mat­ter how tired he was, my hus­band would gath­er up his “little wo­men” on week­ends, and quiz them on everything from cur­rent events to the most trivi­al of trivia. If they got the right an­swer, he would an­nounce the win­ner with a blast from an an­tique auto­mobile horn we’d found at a flea mar­ket. Thus the “Beep” game.

No com­plex video games or com­puter graph­ics. Just a dad and his three daugh­ters. And oh, how they re­mem­ber.

Shop­ping trips that seemed in­con­sequen­tial turned out not to be. Jill re­called the mo­nu­ment­al pur­chase of her col­lege trunk, the one that she stuffed with all her earthly be­long­ings one late Au­gust night when we all watched word­lessly, won­der­ing how in the world we’d ever get used to her green and white bed­room at the top of the stairs…empty.

I fi­nally un­der­stand that the tapestry of fam­ily is humble, not grand. It’s a patch­work quilt, not a silk bed­spread. And its in­tric­ate beauty may just lie in its sim­pli­city. I’m glad our daugh­ters re­mem­ber how we would make up songs on rainy days. I’m thrilled that they haven’t for­got­ten sled­ding down our town’s best hill, or chas­ing fire­flies, and one an­oth­er, on sum­mer nights.

Like so many of the best things in life, I wish we’d had more of those silly, spon­tan­eous mo­ments. I wish I’d spent more hours on the kit­chen floor as our daugh­ters meta­morph­osed from girls to wo­men…overnight.

But for now, I’ll settle for their memor­ies of the way we were. They are a dif­fer­ent kind of fam­ily al­bum, these memor­ies. And they were taken by the best cam­era of all.

My daugh­ters’ hearts. ••

You can reach at pinegander@aol.com.

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