knee slapper

When my siblings and I were kids, we would go to the zoo on Easter. It was a tradition we shared with family friends: on the 4th of July we would go splash in their pool, on Easter we would head to the zoo. I remember one Easter in particular (I must have been around 13 because I remember I was wearing a loom seed bead necklace from Claire’s). We were in the car, on the way to the zoo. Janice called Joel her “boy toy” which we sheltered home schoolers found hilarious. Joel said, “that’s a knee slapper” and literally slapped his knee. But somehow, the gum he had been chewing ended up on his hand which splattered all over his knee. Then he had to gingerly pick gum remnants out of his leg hair. And I remember my Claire’s necklace broke that day.

Twenty years later, I still think of that Easter and laugh. I laugh because Joel still says, “knee slapper” and still makes people laugh with his endearing charisma. He has been a “boy toy” to other women since. But mostly, it makes me smile because it was an ordinary moment that means nothing to anyone other than our family. But to our family, it is a moment cemented in our memories as something we enjoyed and shared. I texted my siblings the memory: we are all in our thirties now save Joel, but our childhood bond is still there, as if we just drove away from the kitchen table for a spell, but one day will resume our homeschooling together at that table, making snide comments and drawing pictures again like we used to under the guise of education.

I drove my own kids to the zoo yesterday, a few days after Easter. I wondered what moments will become memories for them. I always wonder how they will remember me as the mom of their childhood. Will they remember the me that yelled at them and nagged them? Will they remember the me that took them on all sorts of field trips and caved when they begged for candy or toys at the store? Will they remember me as always being at the computer or on my phone or on the treadmill? I hope they remember me for cuddling them to sleep each night, for dancing with them to Meghan Trainor and Coldplay. I hope they remember me the love, not the stress.

And I hope in twenty years, they are texting each other childhood memories that still make them laugh, despite decades of pain and hard lessons learned in the meantime. I hope they remember the love, not the stress.

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