When I was 4 and not yet in school, and in need of an audience, I used to sit with Mom on the couch and the Eaton's catalogue open our laps. With a crochet hook as a pointer, I would survey the drapery pages where they had little squares showing the fabrics and patterns that could be ordered. With my hook and my Mom as a captive audience, I would give a running talk:
This one would be good for a winter coat. Because it's warm. Now this one would be good for a dress because it has flowers on it and it is colourful. This was would be good for boys pants ...My Mom did not remember this, she remembered those years for the busy-ness of rearing 3 kids while her husband worked and was earning his M.B.A. She remembered having no time for me. But I remember.
I remember how she would clean out the wax from her ear. She would be horrified that I would be publicizing this on the inter web, but she used (at least when I was little) a bobby pin and cleaned out her ear like a jack hammer. It's a marvel that she did not perforate her ear drum.
I remember during elementary school when my Dad travelled a lot during the week, our joint enterprise of going through all my Dad's suit pockets, scavenging for enough change so the 4 of us could go to McDonald's. This was the early days of McDonald's where it was an extreme novelty and treat. And $4 or 5 fed all of 4 us. We would find lots of dimes and nickels but it was a cause for celebration to find quarters!
I remember in grade 7, I was cleaning up after dinner. Mom had a class to go to and I PROMISED that I would let the pans soak and clean them before she came home. She thought I would forget and she would end up doing it late at night after her class. I vowed that I would pay her my allowance if I forgot to do it. I was just nodding off to sleep and I heard her key in the door. I sprang out of my bed and ran to my Mom and tearfully admitted I had forgotten to do the pans and I was sorry. Mom granted me mercy. And cleaned the pans herself.
I remember when I first started talking on the phone all night with my girlfriends, in grade 9. At one point my Mom entered the room and apparently I did not want to divulge the content of our private conversations (like where were would meet at lunch). I said to my friend "You know what you just said a minute ago, that is true for me".
My Mom said "oh, are you trying to tell her your mother just entered the room?" At the time, I could not believe she figured that one out!
In high school, I remember her teaching me how to clean a bathroom. She agreed that she would pay me to do some of the extra housework (cleaning bathrooms). But it had to pass muster for inspection. She only had to tell me once, as being corrected by one's mother at 16 is not something you volunteer for. I remember her showing me how to use a cloth to clean being the faucet. This is a skill I use too infrequently now.
I remember her fixation with truth-telling. And the belief that a good set of pots is an essential. The year I graduated from law school I was still living at home, saving up for my first place. We were having a discussion over whether telling little white lies was appropriate to spare some one's feelings. No, she steadfastly maintained, it was never right.
So I tested her. "Are you giving me pots and pans for Christmas?" I suspected as much.
She didn't miss a beat. "No."
At Christmas I opened a large box of pots and pans. Before I said thank you, I smiled at my Mom and said "but you lied". She smiled back. Those pots lasted for 25 years. A couple Christmases ago we bought new ones with Christmas money from my parents. I know my mother was pleased that we acquired Lagostina pots to take us the next 25 years. The old ones are now being used by a family in Mexico.
Come to think of it, none of these things are little. Listening to your kids, granting mercy, treating your kids to an unexpected treat, and instilling the importance of truthfulness, good pots and a clean bathroom. All of it important stuff.
Okay, except the earwax thing, haven't worked out a life lesson from that one yet.