It’s amazing how an image, a scent, or even a few words can conjure up memories. Moments long forgotten, part of another life, another era, can become crystal clear with just a brief impression. And just like that, I am in the past.
In our children, we have the most brilliant of futures. My future took a new, incredible direction when my tiny person was born. And being a part of his future—that is a gift too.
However, there’s also something special about being able to share one’s past, one’s history, with a child. The person I was, all the things that helped to make me who I am today, all the things that brought me to my tiny person’s life—it’s all a part of his narrative as well. It’s a part of his life story. And I feel fortunate to be able to share the things that I love, that I grew up with, with my tiny person.
And there we were—little one’s first camping trip. At first it was just an idea; then it was reality. I worried I might be taking on too much to attempt camping solo with an excited, rambunctious toddler who loves to explore. But in my head, I knew it would be worth it. My tiny person loves to be outside—every moment, every day, every sort of weather. I felt strongly that he would love camping—and indeed he did.
But what I did not expect, on this lovely solo trip of ours, was the flood of memories that would overwhelm me.
Camping was a part of my childhood, and the smallest things transported me back. The sounds of children running through the campground, meeting new friends, exploring bogs and looking for frogs. Roasting marshmallows, staying up late by the fire long after tiny person went to bed. As I sat there, I could easily picture my own mother sitting by the fire, talking easily with relatives or friends who might have accompanied us, enjoying the quiet evening with crickets in the background.
At home, my little one asks for a blanket. I reach for a beautiful quilt of pinks and turquoise, patterned with houses that have frogs peering out of them. “My banket – tanks mommy!” he says to me. He asks me if I made the blanket for him.
No, this blanket was a special gift for him, made by his grandma—my mommy, I tell him. He asks where she is, if he can see her. And at two years old, I am explaining to my small person for the first time that his grandma died many years ago, how she loved him even before he was born, loved him so very much that she made him this blanket.
He tells me he is sad. He fingers the blanket, and then asks to see my blanket—the one that my mother made for me. With blanket and mommy cuddles, he soon forgets about his sudden sadness for this grandmother that he’s never met, but who has left us such beautiful gifts. It’s one of many such moments that have begun to dot our bedtime routine—his inquiries into where things come from, and where these people have gone. Our tiny person has parents—so mommy must have parents, right? Thus questions arise.
Instead of sadness for people gone before us, there is opportunity. And new beginnings.
Camping invigorates both of us. The rain, drizzle, fog and barely 10-degree temperatures of this St. John’s summer has left us feeling frustrated and housebound. Where is the sunshine, the warm breezes and opportunities for small person to run around naked on the farm? Where have our lazy days of warm pond swims gone? Even our small person seems anxious for some sort of summer adventure. And so off we went, to camp solo, a bit of mommy and tiny person time.
The cold chill and rain found us even camping. But snuggled in our tent together, we were dry as could be, covered in wool blankets and sleeping bags, with the small one clutching “gamma’s banket”. We talked of the frogs on his quilt, looking at each of them peering from their tiny coloured houses, as the croaking of frogs echoed in the stillness of La Manche.
This life hands us such wonderful, beautiful new opportunities. The sadness that sometimes overwhelms me, the absence of my mother, that she will never get to know this smart, wild and funny small person of mine, is overcome when we share such fantastic moments together. In this life we share together, he is learning of my mother, he is getting to know her still. He is learning my life’s narrative, about the wonderful moments that flecked my childhood. And we are creating amazing new memories together.
We sat together by the fire, singing songs by The Beatles, roasting a marshmallow or two, eating veggie chips, listening to the frogs and the crows and occasional laughter from other campers. I have deja vu of a similar scene, many years ago, by the lakeside with my own mother. My small person is helping me both to re-visit my own childhood, while also creating his own new and beautiful future—one where anything is possible.
It’s a wonderful experience to be part of, this gift that he has given me.