The Landslide of Forgetting

It dawned on me in the toddler toilet-training aisle at Target, of all places. I was looking for a baby shower gift and was wandering through the baby section with a somewhat-annoyed 14 year old boy walking a safe distance behind me. He was mumbling something about "when can we go" and "you promised you wouldn't do this" and "you owe me Taco Bell now" (oh how I love when they tell me what I owe them. Someday I might type up a bill for services rendered and hand it over).

It was there in the sea of grinning cartoon characters and ohmygod so much chevron. A little section of those padded mini toilet seats you stick over the regular one. I pulled one down off of the display hook and held it for a second (really the only time it's okay to do so without rubber gloves and a surgical mask). I expected a flood of memories to wash over me, and was kind of disappointed when all I got was some fuzzy snapshots of little legs dangling from the big potty, and a muffled clip of hands clapping while a young mommy voice cheered "GOOD JOB".

The teenager was beside me then, the mumbling ceased momentarily. "Do you remember, William?" I asked him. "We had a seat just like this for all of you to use when you were little." He regarded the seat, and a small smile inchwormed across his face. "Yeah" he said, clear as a bell. "It was soft. I totally remember that." We sat there for a second, and if anyone had glanced over they would have seen an unusual sight: middle aged-mother and tall, gangly teen son, smiling at a toilet seat.

"I can't remember what ours looked like." I finally said. "All I can recall are bright colors and cartoony faces. What did ours look like?" William pursed his lips, thought about it and then replied, "I don't know." I put the miniature seat back on its hook and as we continued on down the aisle it began to bug me.

That seat had a spot, front and center, in the bathroom of our home for a good seven years. Four tiny tushies did their business on it countless times. God only knows how much time I spent cleaning it.

And here I was, well over a decade later, wracking my brain to remember. The teenager offered up a few suggestions: "Maybe it was Disney characters" he offered. "No!" I replied, because I remembered one thing for certain and that was I abhorred Disney characters on my kid's things. Don't even get me started on the cloyingly pastel baby versions of Mickey, Goofy, et al. Gah.

As we made our way to the infant-wear section, we batted ideas back and forth. Barney? Dear Lord. No. William suggested that maybe there weren't characters on it at all. Maybe just colorful shapes? Nah. There were forms, not human, but figures with heads and eyes and I think, limbs. Dammit.

Why was this bugging me so much? Gnawing at my brain, pinching my mind. "I know!" I announced, standing there in the middle of racks adorned with soft footed sleepers and eensy weensy outfits. "I'll call Molly." Molly is 19 and is a freshman in college. She possesses a keen recollection of days gone by, and also, millions more brain cells than me.

So there we stood, in Target, the again-restless boy shifting his weight from one foot to another while his mother called a girl in a dorm room 300 miles away.

Molly answered, and when I asked her what was hands down the most inane question, ever, she answered immediately:

"Sesame Street."

Boom. Yes. I saw it again, those maniacally happy heads of Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster floating on a vinyl sea of white. There had been a removable plastic shield to catch the spray from the little boys (and hello, any way we can invent a giant spray-catcher for older boys??). I could see it there in our old little bathroom in our old little house, leaning up against the vanity waiting for the next toddler-sized offering, the next round of applause from a long ago version of me.

I thanked Molly and we laughed about potty seats and olden days. William and I finished up our shopping trip (gift card for the expectant mommy, because sensory overload for me). Our brief trip down memory lane ended and life continued on as usual.

Sometime later, maybe that evening, maybe the next day, I thought about all the other bits and pieces of the past I've forgotten. How many toddler outfits I'd loved, with their matching hats and socks, that are now obliterated from my memory banks. What was the book Henry had begged me to read at beditme for months on end? What truck did Charlie absolutely lose his shit over when we left it at the park that time? Toddler Molly used to have a collection of pacifiers, but only one would lull her to sleep. What did it look like??

My children are getting older, and to quote Stevie Nicks, I'm getting older too. The minutiae of our day to day life, those old timey days when I was so busy with four little kids who were constantly challenging me and a house that always seemed just a bit too small and a bit too messy...those things I thought I'd never be able to forget are now forgotten. Like the Diaper Genie and the booster seats and adorably adorable wee backpacks they'd proudly donned for those first days of kindergarten, they served their purposes and then faded into oblivion.

For a while there I was unsure whether or not I'd be able to handle all of it, the changes that were happening at a breakneck pace. The round faces giving way to cheekbones and whiskers, the hormones and the new friends and the late nights no longer spent wishing they'd go to sleep but wishing they'd get home. Graduations, proms and FAFSA forms and shopping for dorm bedding. It hit me, hard, exactly like a landslide and I didn't know if I'd survive. I mean, the kid who once had me crying with worry because he pushed a little girl over with his chubby three-year-old hands in the sandbox is now a junior in college who can stop at the liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine for me before he comes home to visit. (note: the sandbox incident did not result in a future bully and/or a life of crime)

But the thing is: just as the children have grown, so have I. After the initial shock of it all, that moment when I could no longer deny the seasons of my life were changing? It became painfully, beautifully clear.

I can handle it. And I remember just enough.


  1. I absolutely loved this. I don't quite remember the minutiae of our day to day life back then either. I guess that can be both good and bad.

  2. It all goes so dang fast as I look at it now with my Fiftieth birthday less than two weeks away. Thank you for the sweet jaunt down my own memory lane.

  3. I think that you and I are telepathic! With my daughter a junior in high school, I have been feeling the exact same way....that there are so many wonderful things that I simply don't remember! I wish I had started blogging when she was little so I could have captured it all....but of course, that was the olden days, I would have had to blog using hammer and chisel... Thanks for a great read!!!

  4. This is beautiful Jenny. I've forgotten most of those minutiae events but many of them I'm glad they are gone from my brain.

  5. I read this while nursing my youngest. We are still- very much- in the thick of potty seats and pacifiers. I cannot imagine what it will be like to wander Target with a teenager. That seems like an alternate existence! I love reading your perspective.

  6. I am now in the potty stage with my son and OGM - the 'shields' are no good. I've been sprayed a couple of times already (But he's still too little to learn to stand and point.) I guess we remember the good and just learn to laugh at everything else.

  7. Those memory blurbs pull you up short, for sure. All put together, they make up our lives! Now I'll be humming "Landslide" all day. It was played at the funeral of a 50-year-old woman I knew who died of a blood clot. Life, over in seconds. Grab on to the now, cherish each other.

  8. I can't remember a darn thing on my own. Thank goodness I started my blog when I did, so at least I can remember what life was like with that last toddler. And occasionally I'll remember the actual feel of a toddler hoisted on my hip - really feel it - and it sort of catches my breath for a second. How can that all be over?

  9. I love, love, love your blog! And I've been missing you for two weeks. I hope everything is ok.


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