In the mental photo album I keep tucked deep within the cracks and crevices of my ever-failing memory, lay the snapshots of certain key moments of my life. They’re the ones I pull out to study in the middle of the night or while driving alone in my car. The ones that I can’t forget.
Unlike the stacks of albums and shoeboxes I have brimming with over 20 years of memories – little ones holding up Easter baskets filled with colorful plastic eggs or smiling in front of Cinderella’s castle – my mental snapshots are a mix of more authentic occurrences. They are the moments that weren’t staged to document our happiness. They’re the real deal.
There’s me, sitting in Newark Airport early in the morning after my 1990 wedding — long after the official wedding photographer had gone home — with a big smile on my face each time I remembered I was finally married to the guy I had chased and loved for so long. There I am again, weeping with relief a dozen years later when an ultrasound revealed the sex of my fourth child—a boy – which I knew would help soften the blow of that pregnancy for my husband. And another instant, this time me standing next to my soon-to-be-ex in a drab county courtroom reciting the names and birth dates of our four children before a judge and thinking how it ended much as it had begun: the two of us standing side-by-side and saying a bunch of words.
There are more happy moments: Lying next to my husband and listening to raindrops softly falling on our tent in the middle of the woods and thinking there was no place on Earth I’d rather be at that moment than lying atop that air mattress. Sitting beside my oldest son on a chairlift making its slow ascent to the top of the mountain and hearing nothing but the silence of the icy trees and snowflakes swirling around us and the sound of his teenaged voice really talking to me without the distractions of Twitter and YouTube. Or rocking in a glider at 2 a.m. with an infant curled like a kitten on my chest, his tiny head tucked under my chin while his tiny back rose and fell beneath my hand as he slept.
There’s a song that comes towards the end of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” (which is now a new movie that I saw the other day) that cleverly observes how life is the slow, steady grind of work and husbands and wives and family and children and doing what you’re supposed to be doing. But every so often there is a flash, an instant that stands out from all the other instants and a moment we file away to be remembered later.
Oh. If life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you’d never know you had one.
My therapist is hot for this idea, too. She likes to tell me — after I’ve sat on her loveseat and complained about yucky things in my life — that the bad stuff lets us see how good the good can be. And as much as I wouldn’t mind a life filled with rainbows and unicorns 24/7, I kind of get her point.
A few years ago I was driving home from a dinner out with my four children to celebrate my oldest girl’s high school graduation when she plugged her iPhone into the car stereo and the song “Landslide” began to play. It was the Glee version of the Fleetwood Mac song, and as Gwyneth Paltrow began to sing all four of my children started to sign with her. Like, even my oldest son who is neither a joiner nor a singer. I began to sing as well and as we sailed through the dark towards home, we sang about time making you bolder and children getting older.
“And I’m getting older, too,” we sang, and I couldn’t help feeling that for a second, everything — our whole lives — had been working towards that moment in the car and singing that song. Like we were in a movie or something. “Landslide” is a song about making changes and you could feel the energy in our car and how – despite the divorce and our struggles trying to stabilize in its aftermath – we were all connected. It was pretty epic.
And since then, we’ve kind of considered “Landslide” our unofficial family song. I even wasted tons of space on my iPhone recently recording Stevie Nicks twirling onstage and singing it when I saw Fleetwood Mac in concert in October.
So on Christmas, after all their own loot had been unwrapped, the kids took turns giving me their presents. I got legit moonshine — procured from one of my oldest son’s southern fraternity brothers — replete with what I initially feared might be testicles floating within that I was later assured were in fact peaches; and a t-shirt from my oldest daughter that read, “Trust me, I’m a writer” (which is funny because nobody about whom I write trusts my writing in the least). And my little guy gave me hat and gloves I had bought for myself at the JCrew outlet that I gave to him to give me, which I kind of thought was better than anything he was going to find for me when he shopped at the Five Below on Christmas Eve. Like, I do not need a “Fault in Our Stars” poster.
But the gift that made me cry – and apparently the children go into Christmas morning with the goal of making their mom weep – was from my youngest daughter who used the lyrics from “Landslide” to create a paper tree from which she had dangled five hearts bearing all of our names.
She explained the framed picture was something she had come across on Pinterest and I don’t know if she’s actually finished writing her college essays or even sent in all of her applications for next year yet, but man, if she put this much time into those endeavors she’d be going to Harvard. I’m just saying.
So now there’s a new moment in that mental shoebox crammed with 48 years-worth of memories stashed away in my crickety brain. Somewhere lodged beneath the snapshots of the babies and the terrible fights and the ride when all five of our voices sang out in our car on a warm spring night is me, unwrapping a gift that reminded me that not even a landslide could bring us down.
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Beautiful sentiment, beautifully put.
Aw, Bill. 🙂
What an awesome gift! I teared up when I read about it so the affect on Moms across the map is the universal. I love it!
Yay! Thanks, Lisa!
Beautiful. She is one special kid.
Yeah, I’m gonna keep that one. xo
I can’t even read your stuff anymore…i just sob..what a special kid….kids.
When you least expect it, those little stinkers really know how to hit us where it hurts. xo
Happy New Year Amy! It’s ALL good;)
It really is…xo
Thanks for making me cry this morning….and I never cry. Beautiful.
Aw, Amy. I never cry, either. Damn that girl! 😉
Amy… I was all set for a laugh and was greeted instead by this beautiful, poignant and heartwrenching piece. What a brilliant description of all that is important and Brava to your angel who created such a perfect gift. Thank you for writing. ❤️
Kim … xo
I too think of the snapshots of my life as scenes from a movie . (By the way my cousin co-produced into the woods . He works for Rob Marshall.) right now I often remember bad memories , memories which constantly remind me why I am getting divorced and why I will be sitting home alone on New Years Eve, but I am also trying to create good new memories and remember the good old memories as well. Thanks for your comforting posts .
Karen … first of all, I consider myself an Into the Woods aficionado as I’ve seen it multiple times (Broadway, Shakespeare in the Park, Wolf Hill Middle School) so tell your cousin the movie crushed it. I can’t wait to see it again. Find a good girly movie to watch early NYE and hit the sack early so you can wake up with 2014 behind you and all the good stuff in 2015 waiting for you. Worse case scenario: add wine to that equation to make it all go down a little easier … xo
That is seriously the most thoughtful and wonderful gift!
Believe me, it takes a lot to make this girl cry and this did it!
I love this Amy….love how you told it….love the gift you received ….all very special
Love seeing your name here, Joyce! xo
All I can say is WOW, Amy. So many things to take away from this post. Very profound words to where I am in my life. This hits home!
David … I love when dudes can relate. Thanks for reading and chiming in … 🙂
Great piece Amy
Thanks, Bonnie! Happy New Year … xo
Landslide has been my anthem these last five years, which encompass my divorce and the transition of my kids into teens. Your post went straight to my heart. Thank you. Wishing you the best in 2015.
Renee … Happy happy to you, too!
Here I am reading your blog and crying my eyes out again. I love everything about this and your 4 beautiful kids!
I teared up when I read this piece. I too, saw FM in October and have it saved to my phone… I saw it with my good friends from High School and it was such a galvanizing moment for the three of us…I will never hear that song and not think about all the special memories and times attached to it. What a gift your child gave to you. Wonderful!
What a great thing to do with your high school pals. All those songs are so epic. Thanks for sharing and have a great new year … xo
You should feel so accomplished you have successfully raised 4 children with love, compassion and laughter. Best reward ever to get such a thoughtful gift!
Thanks, girl! LOVE seeing your name here. Happy New Year … xo
Oh wow, this had me weeping. I love, love, love this! Oh! And Landslide is one of my faves. Happy New Year.
Happy, happy … xo
I think that special kid who gave you such a special gift has a special Mom.
Mimi!! Talk about special seeing you here! I guess it takes special to know special … 🙂
I feel so lucky to have come across this. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself- such a joy to read.
Thanks, Marcy. So nice to read that! Happy New Year to you … xo
Wow. You know they love you…Happy New Year Amy!
Happy New Year, Valerie!
I have just discovered your blog. Beautiful writing. And what a treasure of a daughter you have. (I know all your children are treasures.) Thanks so much for sharing.
So glad you found me! 🙂
I love everything you write, but I’m pretty sure this is the best yet. Beautiful…all of it.
Amy … while I super love any and all comments here — they are, like, my crack — I especially love hearing from writers I really admire. So, thanks girl. That meant a lot. xo
I found you through The Happy Hausfrau – so glad I did. I’m also a divorced mom of four. Your writing is beautiful – very much enjoyed this post, in particular. I look forward to reading more. What a wonderful gift from your daughter!
Hi Kira! SO glad you found me, especially through that Hausfrau, who I love too! Hope you keep reading … 🙂
That is the best Christmas present, ever. Second best is the moonshine.
I am such a freak about Landslide. When my daughter and I drove to her college for orientation last June, we were listening to tunes and gabbing an laughing. As we reached the top of a big hill, the one that reveals the city like a big quilt being shaken out in front of you…BANG. Stevie came on and it was Landslide. I started bawling.
I am going to show that picture to my daughter now, and tell her that it would make a great present for her mom next year 🙂
Jenny … I love your Landslide moment. So beautiful and think it would be in your girl’s best interest to make you a Landslide tree posthaste. Since she gave it to me, I’ve let my little girl off the hook for a super messy bedroom and sassy back talk because of that amazing gift. It makes for excellent collateral for naughty teen behavior. LOVE seeing you here … xo
I read many blogs. This is, by far, the best post I have ever read. I just love the music aspect. Music is one of the best things about living, in my opinion.
And that gift !!! Oh my, that gift is amazing. What a thoroughly wonderful, beautiful idea. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Diana! So glad you found me and am humbled by your kind words. Totally agree about music, too. I’ve got a list somewhere of what would be a great soundtrack for the Lifetime movie of my life. 🙂
This is absolutely beautiful, honey. I’m all teary now, thanks a lot.
Miss Emily … that means so much. Can’t wait to see your butt live and in person at Blogher. xo
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I love all your blogs but this one drove me to comment. Are you kidding me? I love that song, that sentiment, that daughter of yours, you, all of it! You go girl, cat pjs and all.
Wow. I am so honored to see you here! Here’s to Stevie Nicks, kitty pjs and good friends. xo
Wow, what an amazing gift.
Thanks, Kelly! I truly treasure it … 🙂