August 1, 2006

Imprinting

My toddler is reaching that age where she could conceivably remember tidbits of our daily activities when she's grown. I'm constantly wondering which memories will stick in her strawberry blonde head 20 years from now.

One of my earliest memories of my mom was holding her hand during church on Sundays. Our sacrament meeting was over an hour long but I would just snuggle next to her on the pew and hold her enormous hand in mine. I would turn it over and study it intently while dry sermons of Faith and Charity blew past my uninterested ears. The strangeness of her aged adult hand compared to my young fresh one never failed to fascinate me. I remember rubbing her boney knuckles and wondering why they protruded so drastically from her hand. Fat blue-purple veins jumped from her skin and pulsed faintly. I pushed them down but they would spring up again full of blood the instant I removed my finger. I would lift her hand up until the blood drained from the veins then drop it to my lap and watch them fill again. There were oh so many creases, divits and imperfections on her hand to be memorized and rememorized each Sunday at church.

I now have my mother's hands. Besides my ugly short nails, they are similar to hers in every way including the web of blue-purple veins that run over them. There are wrinkles around the webbing of my fingers and you can easily feel each and every bone and tendon in my hand with a soft touch. Somewhere along the road, my hands grew up. I look at Pixie's soft little pink hands with familiarity. I used to have hands like that. Now that I have my mother's hands I have to face that I have her similar responsibilities.

I worry about making every day a happy one for Pixie. Everything is a potential memory. Reading books in funny voices, painting her nails, Eskimo kisses, high fives. I can't tell which (if any) of these things she will remember of me when she's grown. I love my memories of mom's hands. Which memories will Pixie have? My earrings? My prickly legs? My off-key singing?

For now, it seems Pixie's favorite activity to share with me is putting on make up. I'll usually let her rub some eye shadow on her eyelids or put on a little blush while I get myself ready to go out. Today I accidentally left my makeup kit too close to the edge of the counter and found her in the bathroom with my Clinique Berry Freeze lipstick half eaten in her mouth. I sat down on the floor with her, rescued my chewed up lipstick gave her a crash course in make up application (or as my mom calls it, "putting on her face.") Soon she had multiple layers of sparkley eye shadow, full mascara, a powdered nose, frosty pink blush and all kinds of lipstick activity in the mouth area. Surprisingly, she's quite the pro at using the blush brush and eye shadow applicators. When she was finished, I held her up to the mirror and she instantly started saying "Pixie messy" over and over until I gave her a tissue and let her wipe off most of her lipstick. If only 1/2 the women in L.A. had such qualms!

Maybe this is a memory that she'll have when she's 26. Or maybe it will be the memory of me yelling "shoot" all the time. But hopefully she'll only remember the good stuff. And hopefully I'll remember to buy some new lipstick before church on Sunday. Mom, don't be shocked if I hold your hand in church next time I come to visit.

10 comments:

The Withered Hand said...

Baby! Are you trying to butter me up in advance of your visit so you'll get a better bedroom? I'll hold your hand ANYTIME, Sweets! Until then, here's a cyber-touch showing me doing my daily reverence to your baby picture on my bulletin board next to the Ol' eMac. Ooh, burble, burble. I LOOOOVE you, Baby.

I like it when you get emotional.

Mary B said...

Sarah, don't go sweet on us! You had us hooked on your sarcasm and your ability to chew up and spit out anything soft. Now this?

Gina said...

This reminds me of Annie Dillard describing her mother's hands in An American Childhood. If you haven't read it, the passage towards the beginning, I think, and it's a nice memoir.

I think of the same thing with my boys - they are experiencing their childhoods at this very moment. It is a heavy responsibility.

bill said...

honestly, i remember mom's veiny hands too. i wasn't so fascinated by them as you, but i did sometimes compare the increasingly bulging veins in my young arms and hands to hers. i thought it was cool to be so veiny. go mom!

Catherine said...

Sarah, not only do I share your same memories of veiny church days, I realized just this week that I am continuing the tradition. My girls love pushing my veins and watching them squirm back into place and like to put my arm up and down to monitor blood flow. Thanks for the memory!

Adrienne said...

It always amazes me what we remember from our childhoods, because it's funny, it's hardly ever birthdays or special events... the earliest stuff that sticks in our mind are usually regular, daily things. I remember my grandmother putting her hair up in curlers, and I remember the way the little decorative soaps in her bathroom smelled. I remember watching "All in the Family" with my Dad, and going through my Mother's purse (which had that Mom-purse smell... Cash, mint gum, leather, cheerios squished in the bottom- my fault.)

I wonder the same thing you do when I'm around my friend's kids. Is this some random thing that'll stick? Will I trip over a lawn chair today and forever be the weird, unknown person in a memory who was clumsy? I think it's some strange confluence of attention and the malleable nature of the kid-mind.

mamie said...

I have the exact same memory of my mother from childhood. As John read the posting aloud, I chimed in that I went so far as to push down the veins in her hands and watch them magically reappear; in fact the whole reson I chose my mothers ring as my wedding band was due to those memories. I also remember my own obilvion, looking up at her intermittedly to ask why she was crying.

Anonymous said...

wow, two swarmy posts in a row. you have gone soft.

Lisa M. said...

I concur. Memories are a funny thing. I wish your Penny, all the very best memories possible.

*very happy thoughts*

amanda said...

Even if Penny doesn't remember a lot from these early days, they are probably helping her to grow into a happy and secure person, which probably wouldn't happen if you were yelling at her every day instead of trying to "make every day a happy one."

I used to love to let Chelsea put make up on with me since it was so cute to see her delicately put on blush. that tradition ended when Kendall, my son, came on the scene and was intent on destroying every bit of make up in the bag. scratching out the eyeshadow from its case, dumping out base, using the mascara wand for a magic marker. It was not a pretty picture.