Sometimes, I get awfully sentimental.
We’ve had some hard stuff with our family lately. My Uncle Mark is in the hospital, and his condition is declining. Times like these feel all at once as still as silence and like you are being swallowed, swarmed with sound and activity and feeling.
I’m not ready to write about my Uncle Mark yet, but I am ready to tell you that getting sentimental has brought back the happiest memories. I know a lot of artists pull from their troubled pasts and people always joke about dysfunctional families. And let’s be real, who doesn’t have a little dysfunction, in the best kinds of ways? But guys. I had the BEST childhood. To quote my sister Brittany, “I mean, you literally thought you were a horse and wanted to kiss everyone on the mouth.”
So… like not that much has changed.
But really. When I think of growing up, I think of playing with my cousins and snuggling and laughing with my aunts and uncles. I think of games of tag that felt life or death and I think of my forever scarred, scabbed, and bruised gangly legs. (Again. Nothing has changed). I think of playing Indians and reading book after book after BOOK and begging for roadtrips to Southern Utah. I remember stringing a dozen Shelby Ballif picture books together, filling notebook after notebook with story ideas, and I remember cultivating a love for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that has yet to leave me.
I remember watching Pocahontas on rainy days, rewinding it, and immediately watching it again. And again. I remember my little obsessions – the random topics I’d latch onto and raid the library for. The Star Wars years, the King Tut years, the years I spent convinced we’d missed a step in geneology and I was secretly Native American. (I’m still holding out for that one.) I remember my big book of maps, hours of board games, and eating cereal from a bowl on the floor when my sisters and I decided we were dogs.
I remember forts and fights and also burning up our microwave by practicing my “calculations” on a bagel we would later recall as a pile of ash. I remember peeing the magic rug in first grade and my aunt picking me up and the mutual agreement that we’d never discuss that particular afternoon again. I remember cutting the whiskers off the world’s worst cat, and the days where syrup on the floor and making grape wine with my feet on our back porch sounded like the best ideas. I remember family parties and I think of swinging my legs off the edge of grandma’s tall porch, making olive fingers and eating baby pickles.
But most of all, I think of my family. Of my sisters and my parents. Of my cousins and my aunts and my uncles. The immediate and the extended, and the solid knowledge that I was believed in, supported, good, important, acknowledged, thought about, and so loved.
Jim Henson said, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
And the people in my family are pretty great. That’s what I remember.