. . . and they’ll never let me forget it

Whenever my daughter Irene isn’t where we expect her to be, someone says darkly, “She’s probably sitting on the floor, playing with blocks.”

This is because, several years ago, she insisted on being the one to run into the city library and fetch the middle school kid while the rest of us waited in the car. And waited.  And waited.

And waited.

It was punishingly hot, everyone was hungry and angry, the baby was screaming, and I was too low on gas to run the air conditioner. I didn’t have enough big kids in the car to stay with the little kids while I went in myself, and I didn’t have a quarter for the parking meter anyway, so we had to wait. And wait. And wait. No kid. Eventually I sent a second kid in to find the kid I had sent in to find the other kid; and when that didn’t work I sent a third — no, a fourth kid in. We had all read the story about Clever Elsie, and nobody liked where this was headed.

But no, just a few minutes after he had gone in, that last kid emerged with all the others in tow. He reported indignantly that he had found Irene just sitting on the floor playing with blocks. Just playing with blocks, while we waited!

Irene, of course, defended herself. There was a very good reason! She couldn’t find the first kid, and she looked in the computer alcoves, in the manga section, by the fish tanks, everywhere a boy might be. Having done her due diligence, she then sensibly wondered if maybe he was in the bathroom in the children’s room upstairs. But the bathroom door was locked, and no one answered when she knocked — a telltale sign that it must be her brother inside, because he never answers when you knock. So she plopped herself down on the floor outside the bathroom and passed the time by playing with blocks until the unreliable crumb would decide to stroll himself out and stop inconveniencing everyone.

What she didn’t know was that the children’s bathroom is always locked, and you have to go ask the librarian for a key. No one answered her knock because no one was in there. So there she was, blissfully building little castles outside an empty bathroom, while the rest of us steamed our brains out in the car while the baby screamed and screamed. And we’ll never let her forget it.

We cherish memories of abject failure by our loves ones, even more than memories of perfect birthday cakes, golden hours reading fairy tales, or happy meals with laughter and song. Why? Because twisting the knife is fun! I don’t know. I can only imagine how many happy evenings Adam whiled away, reminding Eve of that one tiny little mistake she made that one time, years and years and years ago. Never mind all the good times, all the hard work and dedication, all the nice loincloths she made for the family. No one wants to reminisce about the day she invented lentils. Nope, it’s always, “Hey, remember that time you doomed mankind?”

Parents, especially, are popular targets of this selective memory. My kids, Irene included, live for the chance to remind me that I once picked up the kids at school and drove all the way into the next town before I even noticed I forgot Sophia. On Valentine’s Day! They always forget that I was nine months pregnant and it was a certifiable miracle I could remember how to use a steering wheel, much less count heads, and I did go back and get her. It’s not as if I just washed my hands of her and got on with my life without Sophia like some kind of bad parent. Nope, it’s just The Day Mama Forgot Sophia . . . On Valentine’s Day. And they’ll never let me forget it.

Then there was the time when my own parents went into what I remember as a long and completely unreasonable tirade about careless children who knock over their cups at meals, causing untold frustration and inconvenience for everyone else at the table, who just want to sit down at the end of a long day and enjoy a meal without having to jump up and clean something every five minutes, if people would just be a little bit more considerate and take the extra two seconds it takes to move their cup out of the way of their elbow so it doesn’t get knoc–

and then, of course, my father knocked over his cup, and my mother knocked over her cup. It was glorious. Glorious. And we’ll never let them forget it.

Now you tell me about your public shame. I want to know what they’ll never forget about you!

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23 thoughts on “. . . and they’ll never let me forget it”

  1. My parents left me at a bank after it had closed. I went to the bathroom after they’d finished loan paperwork, and when I came out in the office area, no one was around; surely they’d give downstairs to wait. I went downstairs where the teller desks are, and it was totally empty. Not a person around. Surely they were waiting in the parking lot. I went out to the parking lot and it was almost empty, and my parents weren’t in sight. An employee coming out the side door found 8 year old me sitting on the sidewalk and crying. My parents had taken separate cars. They both thought I was with the other until they got home and a lady from the bank was on the line.

  2. Two months pregnant, miserable day at DisneyWorld in July (why? who knows), 4 kids. End of a very, very long day, at about 10 o’clock at night. Crush of humanity waiting for the tram to parking lot. I was wrangling kids and lost track of husband. Looked up and suddenly saw him, sitting all by himself with a big smile on his face, in an empty seat on the tram, which was about to pull out. Now, reasonable assumption (which was actually the case) would be that he hopped on and saved us a seat. Looking at that big smile on his face, for some reason all I could think, in my pregnant and Disney-deranged state, was that he was bailing and leaving me to wait for the next tram with all four kids. So I opened my mouth and, at the top of my voice–loud enough to carry to every part of that tram–shouted, “[Husband!] WHAT THE FUDGE!” (only I didn’t say Fudge). To this day my kids cannot see Mickey Mouse without telling the story about how Mom dropped an F bomb in front of a crowd of small children at the happiest place on earth.

  3. My favorite story of child trauma is when I was like 8 and my little sister was 7, we both said we didn’t feel well. My mom felt my little sisters head and said she had a fever and felt mine and said I was fine. My mom decided to take my sister to the dr and said I could tag along (military walk in family clinic in the 80s). Turn out my little sister had a 99 degree fever and I had a 103 degree fever. Many guilt trips on my mom followed that incident.

    1. When I had appendicitis at 16 and was crying from the pain in the middle of the night, I distinctly heard my dad saying to my mom, ‘Can’t you give her some Pepto-Bismol to shut her up?” She made him take me to the ER the next morning and they admitted me and did emergency surgery three days later and told my dad that my appendix was about 2 seconds away from bursting at that point. I am pretty sure I dined out on that for ages.

  4. I used to pick up my brothers from chess club and met a guy there who asked me to his homecoming dance (our only, very awkward, date). When he came over to meet the rest of the family, everyone had been laughing about how they’d put their best foot forward – literally. So that was the plan (*not* approved by me, might I add), my family members were all going to take big step forward upon greeting the poor boy. What happened was, everyone decided to be nice and greeted him normally, until my dad came in the room and said a hearty “Hi!” putting out a hand to shake, and taking a Mother-May-I-giant-step forward. Date looked startled. I tell this story as “that time my goofy dad weirded out my already-shy date.” My dad always tells it as “that time you all left ME to look like the oddball.”

  5. My failures are many, but the first that leaps to mind is the evening I had been home alone and didn’t notice when my sister came home from the park. Later, when my parents and other siblings arrived and asked where she was, I said she wasn’t back yet. Cue about an hour of people freaking out and circling back to the park to look for her, until finally someone thought to check her room, where she had been the whole time.

  6. At my dad’s 90th birthday, my aunt made a toast that included the time she took me out to buy shoes and I hated every single pair she made me try on. I should note a) I was six; b) I can now file for Social Security; c) the incident had zero to do with my dad.

    It will keep coming up. Like stomach acid, I’m sure.

    1. I have a friend who, when giving talks about God healing us of our wounds, recounts her aunt’s frequent sharing with the whole family “that time J made soupy cookie dough!” Friend was 9 at the time, felt humiliated by the story, and baked nothing for about 20 years after.

  7. Forgot to pick up a kid at honor band practice.
    Another kid begged me for some cantaloupe, and when I cut some up, he took one look at it and recoiled. It made me mad, so I insisted he eat at least one bite. He had an allergic reaction.
    The time I grabbed the cayenne instead of the paprika and made spicy spaghetti sauce.

    1. You just reminded me of another one of mine. My first two kids and husband adored tuna casserole. My third refused to eat it. It irked me because i was irrational and thought he was being selectively picky to be difficult. He was four when I snapped, and sat with him for an hour to make him just try it. He tearfully kept saying he’d throw up if he ate any. I said, “No you won’t, now eat!” He took a bite and promptly threw up all over his plate.

      I haven’t made tuna casserole since.

  8. Every year in my family we made Resurrection cookies on Holy Saturday. You make a basic meringue with pecans, but each ingredient has an accompanying bible verse relating to the Passion. Then you put them in a warmed oven, turn the oven off, “seal the tomb” (tape the oven shut) and leave them to dry out overnight so that on Easter morning, they’re all crispy and hollow like a tomb.

    Well, one Easter morning, my dad went to the store to buy a Sunday paper, and the rest of us gathered in front of the oven to read about the women finding the tomb empty. But instead, we heard my mother shriek, “WHO opened the oven door and STOLE one of the COOKIES?!” We all denied it. She literally lined us up and demanded someone come forward. But nobody budged. No one knew who ate the cookie. No matter what she threatened, (including the cancellation of Easter itself) nobody came forward. Finally, someone suggested, “Maybe dad ate one before he left?” That was too much for my mother. Our dad would NEVER think of eating one of the cookies. We do this every year! He knows we don’t eat the cookies til we open it all together!

    A few minutes later, we’re all still lined up, most of us crying, Easter cancelled, and my dad walks through the door. Instantly we all desperately cry out, “Dad, did you eat one of the cookies? Mom thinks we did, but we didn’t!” “Oh, yeah, I ate one. Was I not supposed to?”

    And then many years later, there was the time my husband and I got into an argument over his driving. To the point where he said, “FINE. You drive.” I hit a fresh deer carcass about an hour later. Had to replace all our tires, have them realigned, and it seemed to knock something out of whack that made our car suddenly start overheating. I swear it came out of no where.

  9. Oh, we get to share what our parents did too? Here’s mine:

    One summer afternoon I was at a softball game out at our recreation center (Northwest Ohio, for future reference), my dad had driven me and was watching in the stands. Around the 2nd inning it was clear a storm was a’brewing, and the wind was kicking up and the coaches called the game. Then the tornado sirens started whooping. Everybody started scattering to their cars, kids with their parents, and one adult turned to me as I was looking around and said, “Do you need a ride?”

    I kept looking, but my dad wasn’t anywhere to be seen. We had a very distinctive car, a huge white Pontiac with a red hard top, and I didn’t see it either, in the thinned-out parking lot. I said, “I don’t know…my dad WAS here…” and the adult scampered off to get home himself.

    So there I was, standing in the parking lot, and in the distance I could distinctly see the funnel-shaped cloud and the gray skies closing in, when suddenly the Pontiac zoomed in and my dad yelled, “Get in! I went home to check on your mom!”

    My mother, who, for the record, GREW UP in Northwest Ohio and knew VERY WELL what to do when there was a tornado watch. In fact, she was downstairs watching the news when my dad ran home to “check on her” and she yelled at him to GO BACK AND PICK UP YOUR DAUGHTER BEFORE THE TORNADO HITS.

    There was also the time he raced a train to cross the tracks so we wouldn’t be late to a Michael Crawford concert. My best friend and I literally thought we were going to die as we crossed the tracks with the train bearing down.

  10. Your story about sitting in the hot car with a screaming baby while waiting for a kid that won’t emerge is SO FAMILIAR!!!
    Only my ptsd brain won’t allow me to remember the specifics (in general)—other than one time in which I told a parking guard to take some ex lax and my kids cheered me on.

    I can remember putting my foot in my mouth and won’t let *myself* forget it..(like asking my Mormon friend if the Mormons tried to get her when she told me they have a house in Utah).

    My oldest daughter loves to drink wine with me on Sundays and then unfailingly teases me if I get a bit giddy on the second glass . She’ll get this crafty cat-that-swallowed the canary look and say “ohhhh Mamalisa” in her sultry voice. We’ll both laugh. Mamalisa can take a joke better than Anna Lisa. Mamalisa has barred Anna lusa’s lifetime membership to the Mothers’ Ivory Tower Club.

    Of course all of my kids remember the time I forgot to pick them up. Their pocket sized violin will emerge as tales of the time they suffered lengthens.

  11. I have managed to get lost in nearly every major city I have visited, when I struck out on my own. Paris–got lost. New York–got lost IN A HOTEL while my aunt and mother were frantically looking for me and my cousin. In our defense, that hotel was awfully large and every floor, it seemed, had the same decorative fountain. We just kept looping around to the wrong fountain to meet our group. My aunt was just grateful we were alive, my mom was irritated because we were almost late to see Sunset Boulevard.

    Nice–got lost. Asked a local how to get to our address and they sent us the wrong way. I went for a walk once in San Antonio, while my husband stayed with our son while he napped, and I only managed to get back because I was careful to stay in a straight line and take no turns, then just turned 180 degrees and walked back.

    I have even gotten lost in cities where I have lived for quite some time. Thankfully I managed to marry a man who can find his way nearly anywhere, once he’s driven there once. Even with Google Maps I have gotten us lost, by trusting the stupid phone. Palm Sunday I was trying to find our way to a church we don’t go to very often, and we ended up inside a housing development…I think it was because a road was closed and the Google was trying to send us through there anyway. So the lesson here is, don’t let Mama tell you how to get to somewhere, ever.

    1. Yep. My siblings have long (since the close of the 2000 Jubilee) resented that time we wandered Rome for hours, unable to find our hotel because they thought we needed to cross to the other side of the Tiber and I swore we didn’t. We had gone to the Vatican in two groups, me earlier through a tunnel (under a major road, but I guess also across the river?) and them later over a bridge. Our parents were frantic by the time we got back and we were all ready to drop from exhaustion.

  12. My 90-year-old mother never lets me forget anything stupid I ever did & treats me like I am still 10 years old with no brains. I distanced myself years ago. My kids still talk about the time I answered the tv remote instead of the cell. Maybe Mom was right.

  13. I was terrible at looking for things as a kid. Absolutely terrible. Apparently my parents once told me to look for my shoes, and I stared up at the ceiling and said, “I can’t find them.” They will never. Ever. Ever. Let me forget that I looked for my shoes on the ceiling. Whenever I can’t find something, the first question they ask is whether I’ve checked the ceiling yet. Sigh.

    1. Oh, my oldest used to do that when he was little! Once I asked him to go find his shoes, and they were RIGHT THERE by his feet, and he looked up at the ceiling and said “I don’t see them.” Let it be written that I do not remind him of this, though, I just hug that funny memory to my heart and remember it when my current youngest has trouble finding things. That this too shall pass.

      1. When my eldest son was about four he asked (pestered) me to help him find something. When I finally finished what I was doing, I looked at him and HE WAS STANDING ON IT.
        “Look down,” I said with admirable calm. He leaned way over and looked at the floor in front of his feet.
        “I CAN’T FIND IT!” he wailed.

        1. I just laughed out loud because I can picture that SO WELL. Is it a boy thing? I have four boys and they have all done something like that at around that age.

  14. That time I unjustly sent my eldest son to his room for some infraction that was actually his little brother’s fault. That was five years ago now . . .

    For my parents, it’s a tie between the time my dad gave me an Oreo cookie when he had jalapeno juice on his fingers (OW) and the time my mom forgot to pick me up at soccer practice.

  15. here’s mine. we discourage the kids from using the word “stupid” because … idk … there are so many wonderful words, and once they start using it then suddenly everything and everyone is stupid. But when the two oldest were little, I went to the upstairs bathroom to discover … i don’t remember exactly what, but it had to do with lots and lots of toilet paper and i think a sink and maybe a toilet plugged and overflowing. Naturally, I lost it and stamped my foot repeatedly with some litany that included lots of “stupids” … they like to mimic me, years later, with plenty of emphasis on the “stupid”

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