Here are my most vivid memories from childhood…
Kaiser rolls and animal crackers at the grocery store.
Burger King crowns.
Popcorn for dinner and Murder She Wrote.
I remember few of the details of my birthday parties, except for my surprise party in second grade, only because I cried when everyone jumped out and scared me.
I don’t remember the details of our vacations. I don’t remember spending the night at friends’ houses.
I remember the simple things. The rituals of our ordinary life made sweet by my parents’ love for us kids.
Each week my mom would take us to the grocery store. Upon arriving, my sister and I would each get a fluffy kaiser roll from the bakery bin to eat while we shopped. On special days, we would also get a box of animal crackers as we approached the checkout line, and we clutched our little red boxes with eager fingers. It’s one of my favorite memories from my youth. Bakery bread and circus crackers.
When we were little, my dad didn’t have to work on Fridays, so he would often take us with him on his errands. At some point, we would always stop at Burger King, my dad’s favorite place to grab lunch. My sister and I would get chicken nuggets and wear our Burger King crowns with pride as we made the most mundane stops to the post office and the hardware store. Another of my favorite memories.
And boring weekend nights at home are forever etched in my mind. I remember eating Little Caesar’s pizza while watching Full House on Friday nights. And making a giant bowl of popcorn every Sunday night to munch on during my mom’s favorite show, Murder She Wrote. It wasn’t even a show for kids, but if you had asked me then, Sunday nights were my favorite. I still have a special fondness for Angela Lansbury after all these years.
But you know what I don’t really remember? I don’t really remember Saturdays. The days we did all the big, fun stuff like birthday parties and trips to the museums and parks. We had a few yearly traditions, like going to the state fair, that remain fond memories, but the “big stuff” during the week… the parties, the picnics, the Girl Scout meetings, the dance recitals, Vacation Bible School… those are all a blur to me.
Instead, I remember watching popcorn seeds dance in the hot oil on Sunday nights. I remember the taste of my chicken nuggets and the paper crown digging into my forehead. I remember the shopping cart and the fluffy rolls. That’s my childhood.
The fancy stuff never stood out to me. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it, but it wasn’t the fabric of our lives. The tiny threads of love and simplicity that made up our Monday shopping and our Friday errands, those are the tapestry of my youth. Parents who took me out and about with them. Parents who made a ritual out of eating popcorn for dinner.
I want to weave the same type of tapestry for my own children. They won’t remember the details of their birthday parties or splurging at the fancy donut shop or taking tumbling lessons. Those are all great things, but they won’t be the memories forever etched on their hearts.
This is what I hope they remember… 6pm dance parties every night when dad got home from work. Eating waffles for breakfast and going grocery shopping with mom. Eating bread out of the bakery bins. Fro-yo dates. Reading the Bible every night before bed.
And may I always remember it’s the rituals of every day life they will recall the most. The little things, not the big, will make the most profound impact on their minds and hearts. So may I embrace hectic trips to the grocery store and loud music as I fix dinner. In those moments, I am building the tapestry of my children’s youth.