Maybe one thing I like best about my mom is that she is an undeterred optimist. Not in the sense that she sees everything through rose tinted glasses, and doesn’t acknowledge of really crappy shit happening – on the contrary, she is aware of those things and is not one for sugarcoating stuff that’s fucked up. But to her, as long as there is life, there’s always hope. There’s always room for improvement.
I remember I hated her positive outlook. How could someone who’s seen so much shit still be so optimistic. When it’s in your face day and night for a long time, though, it becomes contagious. And I want to believe that she is right, too.
So one thing she says is that it’s never too late for happy childhood memories. That we can still make them together. Not to pretend the crap ones never happened, but to give them a counterweight. To add happy memories. Only when we’re in the mood, because it works only when we get a special mojo going. It’s impossible to do on command, just by going to the motions, but at the right moment it can be awesome.
So what do we do?
She reads children’s books to me. I was never one for reading, but she can read in a way that’s fun to listen to. She makes the stories come alive. I can actually sit still long enough to listen. I snuggle up to her when she reads. I love that.
We watch children’s movies together. I mentioned it yesterday in the random questions already, my most favorite film in the world is “The Children of Noisy Village”, which is an old film (from the 60s, I think) about six Swedish kids living on three farms next to each other and their childhood adventures. Not adventures in the sense that there’s drama and they need to overcome bad obstacles, but just little adventures like getting to care for a lamb, sleeping on the family’s hayloft, trying to see a water spirit or rescuing a dog. I love this film. I can’t count how often I have watched it. Watching it is like experiencing a tiny little bit of the innocence of being a child with a happy childhood.
Mom encourages me to make childhood experiences. One day I found my siblings old swing and she put it up where it used to hang from a big branch in the front yard so I could swing. It was silly, but it was fun. And I now have a memory of my mom putting up a swing for me, and of swinging while she watched and took a picture because she wanted to keep the memory for later.
We play games together. Board games and cards. But also clapping games like Miss Susie and Sevens. We often play “I Spy” when I’m bored. And sometimes hide & seek. And when I’m really lucky I can get her to play tag with me, in the garden. My sisters play it with me when they’re home. I know I’m too old, but it’s still fun. It’s making happy childhood memories.
We take time to do childhood things. I never carved a pumpkin for Halloween in my life before I came to live with my family. I never dressed up as anything. I never helped decorate the house for Christmas when I was little. I never got to help with baking and decorating cookies. I never got to have a fort under a table or between chairs by hanging blankets over stuff. I never got to play with a squirt gun in the Summer, when it’s hot, hiding and ambushing someone, or having a squirt gun fight. I had no memories of anyone playing ball with me in a way that’s fun. But now I have memories of all those things.
We laugh. I would never have thought something simple as this is a childhood memory thing, but it is. Sometimes my mom is silly or funny, for no other reason than to make me laugh. And it works. It’s not easy for me to just laugh in a way that comes from inner happiness or silliness, but when it happens it always makes for a good memory.
There’s more, but it’s hard to think of everything.
What I feel is important to add is that even the happiest memory can be painful, or at least bittersweet for me. Like all good stuff happening, good memories can be really hard to cope with. Ever so often a happy moment will suddenly change into me crying or getting angry and hating everything. The happy stuff can be terribly painful. But mom knows. She will just stop what we were doing, and gives me room to be sad or angry in a way that’s safe, and once I let her, we’ll talk about it. And even when it can be hard, at the end of the day I find it helps to have happy childhood memories. Even when I only made them now.