I'm sure I did some big stuff that year, trips or birthday parties or other "special" events.
I don't remember any of them.
What I remember is mama.
I can still smell the fish sticks and vegetable soup and I can hear her laughing at me as I waited for dinner with all the patience a 5 year old could muster, sitting on my hands and bouncing in my seat and swinging my legs, wishing mama could just hurry up and make it ready faster.
I can still see the sleek black talking car and the dark living room aglow with the flickering light of the television as mama and I sat and watched Knight Rider together.
I can feel the scratchy softness of a bare mattress against my cheek as I lay sick in mama's bed, admiring her while she sewed cloth baby dolls to sell for extra money.
I can still feel the quickened pace of my heart and the unbound excitement, listening to mama's end of the conversation as she talked on the phone to grandaddy about what they were going to name their new chihuahua. Tiger! The name I had chosen for him!
There are so many more things that I don't even remember with words or details or mental pictures.
I remember them with a feeling.
Oh mamas…my heart aches for you to embrace the truth that it's not about what you can give your children. It's about WHO you can give them.
This morning my 8 year old daughter snuggled up next to me on the couch, looked into my tired eyes with her sparkling green ones, crinkled her freckled nose and said. "Mama, do you remember that time in our old house when we sat on my bed after I just woke up and we laughed so much?" She chuckled at the memory then rested her pigtailed head against my shoulder. I didn't have any idea what she was talking about. But I wrapped my arms around her, pulled her closer and said, "I love laughing with you." Against my arm, I could feel her cheeks swell into a smile.
They may have your Pinterest inspired table decorations securely nestled in their memories for all time. But it's more likely that their hearts will take them back to the time spent with you around that table. And those memories will envelope their tender souls like emotional bubble wrap, protecting them from the barrage of hurts that will inevitably assault them as they move through life.
You won't parent perfectly all the time. Chances are, you won't even parent perfectly for an entire day at a time.
But your children don't need you to be perfect. They need you to be present.
He will remember how you looked straight into his eyes instead of at your phone when he told you exactly how he came up with his idea for his latest fabulous lego creation.
She will remember that time she beat you at Memory, and you tickled her until she could hardly breathe with laughter and you told her the only way to get free was to declare you the winner. And she did, with rosy cheeks and leftover giggles.
One day, he will find himself picking up a can of squirtable cheese for his own children, not because it tastes good but because seeing it made him laugh in the middle of the store aisle at the memory of you squirting it on your face in the shape of a processed orange mustache.
One day she will smile and sigh contentedly when she recalls lying on the sofa with her head on your lap while you read a book and softly combed your fingers through her tangled little girl hair.
You may not get your bed made every morning. You may not even get it made for the next 12 years. But they won't remember your unmade bed. They'll remember you inviting them to skip their chores and cuddle up beside you in it to watch a movie on a rainy day.
She won't remember that you rarely get around to showering before lunch. Or that, even more rarely, you get around to wearing anything other than yoga pants. She will remember that you spent the morning reading her books and laughing with her at the funny parts.
He probably won't recall everyone who was there when he blew out the candles on his birthday cakes. What he will remember is the way your eyes lit up when he walked into the room.
I've had a lot of fish sticks in my life. But the only ones I can still taste are the ones that were served by mama in our little apartment.
These babies of yours, they will grow. Out of your arms and into the world.
When they set out on their own journeys through life, and they take a long nostalgic look over their shoulder, what do you want them to see?
Let it be you, mama. Let it be you.
So when they turn back around and face the rocky road ahead, they'll know without a doubt who is behind them.
They'll know that you are present.
Then. Now. Always.