On Memories that Stick

Feb 8 2012

It’s stuck. Embedded. Lodged in my brain. An indelible moment.

Life is like walking through pea gravel with new running shoes. The soft grooves and deep crevices are just right for picking up rocks, but we don’t get to choose which of the memories on the path wiggle their way inside. And I’m glad. It makes rifling through my brain less like perusing a filing cabinet and more like playing with a kaleidoscope, all bright colors and unique patterns and what the heck is THAT one doing there?

Last night, a skinny, gangly preschool boy child of mine tore through our house, covered in a knee-length t-shirt and, apparently, a raging and persistent butt rash. At least, when I questioned him – SEVERAL times – about his sidelined undies, which I found discarded in the hall, the rash was the excuse he used for wearing naught but the shirt.

“Put on your underwear, dude,” I instructed. (Life with boys, yes?) “You’re getting too old at the ripe age of five to have your boy bits making appearances. No one needs to see that except when you’re peeing in the backyard and it’s unavoidable.” I like to think I can be reasonable.

“But it’s a LONG shirt, Mom.” And, indeed, it was a long shirt. Practically a dress. But still, I was firm. I told him to undie up.

“But I don’t like the Aquaphor I smeared on my butt to get on my underwear!” he whined.

“Well, no one likes that but I’m telling you better your underwear than my couch, pal.”

And I insisted that undergarments are a required part of our household uniform. I even said it like I believe it, so kudos to me.

Eventually, the time for preschool commando games came to an end, and we rallied the forces for bedtime. All of a sudden, legs that worked perfectly for climbing book shelves and jumping from the couch to the ottoman to avoid the Living Room Lake of Lava ceased to function. Leg muscles atrophied and bones became brittle and there was simply no way little lifeless legs could carry their child host to bed.

“I can’t walk all the way up the stairs, Dad. I just can’t,” he said, cheek pressed pathetically to the floor.

Greg lifted the boy to his shoulders to give him a ride to bed and then recalled, almost too late, the evening’s fashion-related events. With only three inches to spare before setting the child all the way on the daddy shoulder perch, I could actually SEE Greg’s brain scream, “STOP! You’re about to plaster little boy bits and a nekked, gooey, rashy rear right across the back of your unprotected neck!”

Greg shuddered and froze, holding the boy suspended and immobile behind his head, and then he stuttered the all-important question…

“You… you ARE wearing underwear now. RIGHT?”

And THAT – the look of wide-eyed terror on Greg’s face during his split-second pause – is the rock in my memory shoe. Hehehe. It’s a good one.