When you look back on your life, it’s not the linear routine that stands out in your mind. It’s the unexpected events, the rich traditions, the sound of your father playing guitar, the scent of your mother’s homemade brownies fresh out of the oven. It’s the things that appeal to your senses, the things that delight your soul.
Raising children is difficult whether you work outside the home or are the CEO of Domestic Operations (i.e. housewife). Some of us have excellent role models to mimic, some of us don’t. Often it feels like appearing on stage to play a concerto on the piano, only to realize that we’ve been trained to play chopsticks. We don’t realize that our audience’s only expectations is to see us in the spotlight. You – just you – are always enough.
Our generation moves a lot more than our parents’. Our kids will probably be even more location independent, possibly even living on a lunar colony. What will bring back fond memories of their childhood?
In Our Mind’s Eye
When you browse through antique shops or flea markets, do you buy kitschy little trinkets simply because they remind you of your grandmother, or of a home you grew up in? I do. When my grandmother passed away, I chose a lot of her oldest possessions to take home. I could have had her new kitchen table and china cabinet, but I wanted her serving dishes.
My grandmother had champagne taste on a beer budget. She had a lot of nice things, but it was the old, worn-out things that reminded me of her. Anything that triggered a memory of my brother and I playing in her kitchen as she painted her nails or did someone’s hair went into my suitcase. Now, my kitchen is filled with her old silverware from the 70s and those awful green and brown serving dishes. I love them.
I grew up in the Netherlands, so I also love anything Dutch. It reminds me of home. What do your children see in your home that will take them back to a less complicated time? Is it fresh flowers from the garden? Maybe it’s a set of hideous lamps that you can’t afford to replace. Begin to view your belongings through their eyes, and create a home that they will look back at with a smile.
It’s funny how little things create such a lasting impression. Your hair might always be a frizzy mess, but your son may grow up to have a fondness for frizzy-haired women. Your daughter may love it when her boyfriend wears plaid, simply because her father did.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives
We had a steady stream of light jazz, contemporary Christian and classical music flowing through our home. That was, of course, before the days of Pandora and iPod docking stations, so we heard our limited amount of CDs many, many times. My children will most likely have a strange obsession with rock opera and Irish punk.
It’s not just canned music, of course. If you grew up near a railroad track, you probably have a love/hate relationship with the sound of trains chugging by. The sounds of the city may drive you up the wall, but your child may grow to love it.
What’s the soundtrack of your children’s lives? When they are tucked in for the night, is the washing machine humming? My mother always did the laundry when we went to bed, and I find myself doing the same. It’s funny how these little tedious rituals become a treasured memory for our kids.
Can You Smell that Smell?
You might recognize a pattern by now: it’s the imperfections of our lives that become dear to us. The tedious and dreary tasks we perform day in and day out become romantic recollections to both us and our kids. I love it when my house is clean, although it rarely happens. My mother was a cleaning machine, though. So when I can smell the Pine-Sol and the bleached bathrooms, my world is at peace. (Sometimes I just run a sink full of hot water and pour in some Pine-Sol!)
Do you have a certain dessert that you bake for company? My mom’s was always brownies. As I mentioned, we lived in the Netherlands, and at that time you couldn’t buy boxed brownies. My mom always brought back a suitcase full of them when we visited America. Maybe you have a candle that you purchase and re-purchase. I like the cotton scented ones, and odds are my kids will like it as they get older too. I also use lavender-scented detergent. I bought it once on accident, decided I liked it, and now use it purposefully, just to have a consistent smell in our home.
Take inventory of your home – the scents, sights and sounds. Be purposeful in your choices, and bring a little bit of tradition into your home. See the romance in your everyday life, and consider yourself investing into the memories of your children’s future.
Crystal Huskey is a freelance writer, musician and mother of two in East Atlanta. She writes regularly for multiple newspapers and magazines. Visit her website for more of her writing.