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Family memories sometimes fuzzy

Published January 12. 2013 09:04AM

Having children gives us many pleasures, pains, laughs, anxiety, pride, disappointments, comfort, burdens and blessings.

Kids give us all that and much more.

Ask any parent.

Parenthood is like a diamond with so many facets. Most times it shines with such beauty you are awed and supremely grateful it is yours. And sometimes everyday living dulls the stone a bit.

I am ever so grateful for the warm relationship I have always maintained with my daughters. Even if they weren't related to me, I would think they are special.

They claim they "grew up in the newspaper," because from the time they were born, much of their lives proved to be fodder for my weekly newspaper column, much to their dismay when they grew older.

One memorable column, titled "Everyone Else's Mother" had its inception in their teenage years when my younger daughter asked why I gave her cereal for breakfast when Everyone Else's mother made homemade pancakes or French toast.

Both daughters often asked why I was so strict when Everyone Else's Mother was a lot more lenient.

I kept hearing about the greatness of Everyone Else's Mother. Judging by the readers' response to that column, Everyone Else's Mother must be talked about in many homes.

But on the whole, raising two daughters was a rewarding time of life. I dreaded the time when they would leave the nest and our priorities would change.

Much to my delight, I discovered our daughters' circumstances would change, but our closeness and bond of love would not.

Every now and then my daughters and I congratulate ourselves on how candid we are with each other. Mostly, we do it without hurting feelings. But not always.

I'll tell you this. Kids keep you humble.

Once at the Carbon County Fair, I encountered two readers who thought I received a bit of notoriety as a newspaper columnist. They wanted to know what I did to stay humble. I told them that's not a problem for anyone with teenagers.

The girls are no longer teenagers but they still are great at keeping me humble.

A while back, my older daughter told her sister she was so grateful to have her as a sibling. I was so happy to hear her say that - until I heard her reason.

"You're the only one who understands when I complain about Mom," she said to her sister.

See what I mean - kids keep you humble.

I take it in stride when they talk about my parenting shortcomings.

In my head, I resort to Erma Bombeck's famous quote: You'll understand when you have children of your own. Wait until you find yourself on the other side of the parent-child relationship.

I used to think my strict mother knew nothing about the right way to parent - until I grew up and had children of my own. Then I wondered how Mom could have been so wise while I never noticed.

When my daughters tell some of their stories about growing up, I sometimes think they are telling fables, not facts. But I just roll my eyes when they claim they had to do the dishes before they were old enough to reach the sink. Forget the fact that we always had a dishwasher.

One thing I always loved to do is to cook. I come from a family of great cooks and I always prided myself by how much effort I put into making each meal. Like my mother, I made everything from scratch.

So what do my daughters recall?

"Remember how mom always made those mushy Brussels sprouts?"

Forty years or more of my culinary efforts must have turned out thousands of wonderful home cooked meals for them. So what do they remember? Mushy Brussels sprouts.

From the time I was married, one of my specialties has been making cakes. I always got especially creative with birthday cakes. So imagine my chagrin when my daughters were talking about their childhood and said I never baked.

I pointed out their birthday pictures with my homemade cakes in the center. They thought I bought the cakes at the supermarket.

The last straw was a long car trip over the Christmas holiday to see my mother-in-law. My two daughters were in the front seat reminiscing about childhood and I was in the back just listening. I'm always interested in what they most remember but maybe I should have kept my ears shut.

"Remember how we never had Christmas cookies unless Baba baked them," said one daughter to the other.

I spoke up in protest, reminding them I made dozens of cookies each year until they were in high school. Then I got smart and decided it was not a Christmas priority. "Remember how you loved the peanut butter cookies I made with the Hershey kisses?" I asked.

"That was Baba," they said.

One sociologist said there are three sides to every family history: What the kids remember, how the parents remember it, and what actually took place.

I wish my daughters had more accurate memories. But in the scheme things, as I sat there listening to their laughter, I knew it wasn't important.

It isn't important if they remember I baked cookies and made creative birthday cakes. What is important is that they remember they were always loved.

We know how blessed we are to be a closely-knit family. We are grateful to be able to share a lifetime of memories even though some of those memories might be fuzzy.

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