Just because I’m not attentive to the here-and-now doesn’t mean others around me are as oblivious as I.
I am reminded of that every time my grown children and I reminisce about their childhood days. Many events that I thought would be permanently etched in their memories, they recall dimly, if at all, while much of what they remember seemed inconsequential to me at the time.
In my recollection, for instance, the day they finally saved the princess in the Super Mario Brothers video game was a defining achievement. We whooped, hollered and high-fived, even took pictures of the tv screen to document the milestone. Maybe the significance was greater to me because I hoped it would be the end of having to hear the Super Mario techno-tune. But to my son, that was just another Saturday, one he barely remembers today.
Some of what they do remember makes me wish for a second chance. My daughter, for instance, recalls the sound of my footsteps coming down the long hallway at her school at the end of the day. In her memory (not mine), she was always the last kid to be claimed by a parent from the after-school program, and the click, click, click of my sensibly sturdy heels signaled that Mom was finally coming to get her.
If I’d tried to be more in the moment back then, would I have wrapped up earlier at the office? Possibly. I’m pretty sure whatever I was doing the last 10 or 15 minutes at work wasn’t all that crucial. What a waste of precious time that was nothing to either me or my employer – but eons to a little girl watching her friends get to go home before her day after day after day.
Most of my kids’ memories, however, surprise me in their simplicity. Like the flag cake I made one July 4 weekend.
I’d seen a recipe in a magazine – an ad for Cool Whip, I think – for an easy, no-bake Independence Day dessert. It entailed multiple frozen pound cakes, sliced and arranged in an appropriately proportioned rectangle, covered with Cool Whip and topped with blueberries for stars and strawberry slices for stripes.
It wasn’t that tasty, and the strawberry stripes had a tendency to slide over the side of the flag. But both my kids remember it. In fact, my daughter asked me to make one this past weekend as a treat for a visiting youngster.
The moral of the story, of course, is that consequence is in the eye of the beholder. You never know when the words or actions you’re dismissing, or not even noticing, are making a lasting impression on someone else. So choose them carefully.
The lesson comes a few decades late for me. But better late than never.