Leave a trace.
I’m not talking about your digital footprint, or littering your snack wrappers alongside a trail. You’re mindful of the types of photos that surface on the Internet, right? And you know not to pick the wildflowers, or put a baby bison in the back of your car, correct? From the headlines and celebrity gossip rags, we know that just because you hit delete on a photo or incendiary post, doesn’t mean it disappears. Put down the selfie stick and take up the pen. Or you could do both, selfie stick in one hand and take a photo of you writing a letter to your mom.
What I want is for you to leave trace, the physical objects of your life. Surely, with your smartphone and all of your apps, you still have something tangible to mark your existence, no update needed. Even if it is a shopping list. In our house, there is a very particular order in which Cole or I write our grocery shopping list. And in case you’re curious he and I do not ascribe to the same methodology of list creation and organization. If you add something to the list you better do it in the same fashion as the one who will be using said list or else half and half or diapers or–gasp–the bottle of wine will be forgotten.
Believe you me, someone in the future, be it in a week or a generation from now will be glad, delighted even, that you left a trace. Even if it is a grocery list. Perhaps one day, Charlie will say: in my house my parents only really shopped for coffee, meat and something called dog meat*.
(*Wylie and Matti are spoiled and get real food to accompany their dry dog food. No, we do not buy or consume dog meat. FYI.)
Operating systems will go obsolete. Batteries die. Charging cables break. In twenty, fifty years from now who will actually plug in your old iphone and search for photos? Facebook might not even be the “thing” two years from now. Do not let your precious memories, the photos of a messy, messy baby smeared from chin to crown of head in raspberries go away. Print the damn photo. It takes but a click or two these days. Sure, it may be ambitious to keep a baby book but at the very least scrawl or note or two, like: “this is the second time this week Charlie’s had a poop explosion in his high chair and it leaked everywhere. Motherhood is SO much fun!”
Combine the ease of connective technology with the lasting kind too. I text my mom, dad and mother in law daily photos of Charlie. It’s irresistible. Plus he’s so damn cute. But I also try to jot a quick note and mail it off in the post. I am fortunate to have relatives who’ve left a trace. In preparation for Passover, I poured over Cole’s grandmother’s cookbooks. Marking certain recipes were clippings from old newspapers, receipts or notes written in her small, tight cursive. I never had the opportunity to celebrate a Passover Seder with Cynthia before she died, so what I have left is her Jewish cookbooks, and the physical remnants of her life well lived, serving as a guidepost on how to carry on traditions.
Cole’s passion, or perhaps his obsession with record keeping comes from his mom. Jeanne’s given me the journals she dutifully kept throughout his childhood. His 111th word was “no” for snow. On Friday, November 16th, 1984 he and his family dined at the Imperial Palace and do you know what his first fortune from the cookie said? “You are a credit to your parents.” How’s that for kismet? My mom gave me my baby book, and I very much enjoy seeing how my weight and height stack up to Charlie’s when I was his age. And, most importantly, I have the best gift from my childhood. The letters my mom wrote to her sister, my Aunt Darcy, from my birth to the mid 1980s. I not only cherish the glimpse into my mother’s life with her two young children, but also the opportunity to experience the close relationship between two sisters, sadly cutoff when my aunt died in 2000.
You may not think it now but your sticky notes with funny baby words jotted down, and birthday cards, and letters shared between siblings are important, but they are. Save them.
My memory is already shoddy. Charlie grows so quickly and the nature of his being resides solely in the present. With a baby, you can hardly catch your breath before the next action. There is no past, or future. It’s here and now. Very much now, says the Spoon Czar at lunch, peaches and cereal plugging his nostrils. In addition to the multiple photos I take with my phone, I keep his baby book close at hand. A quick note here, recording the funny fart noise he makes when we ask: “Can you say Daddy?” The pictures I print are not organized, dated and few make it into frames. Many dangle from magnets on our fridge, next to always forgotten coupons for diapers and the “here’s what your baby should be doing” worksheet from the pediatrician’s office. My trace is messy, stacks of notes here and there.
Leave your handwriting scrawled on scraps of paper or birthday cards. Leave love letters and signed permission slips. Leave underlined books and actual printed photos stuck to actual pages in a baby book. Take up the pen, marker or pencil and leave your mark. Clip out articles from a newspaper, don’t just share a link on social media. Send the ones of interest to your mother, your grandmother. Dog ear magazines articles about hikes in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Leave a trace. Leave your trace.