Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When Memories Stink

They say smells can trigger some of our deepest, most long forgotten memories; an aroma can bring us back to a special place. For some, it's fresh baked cookies and baking bread. For cows-in-field-902652-mme, it's the ripe aroma of dairy cows and "natural" fertilizer. Oh, and the skunk that decided to take up permanent residence beneath our clothes dryer.

Ah, the smells of childhood. I'm pretty sure those weren't the ones my mother was going for. Nor did she envision Sunday afternoon fights with the septic tank or mid-winter living room camp-outs when the heater broke. At the time, I bet she and my dad were beyond frustrated. Yet now, thirty some years later, many of those moments became cherished memories. (NOT the manure, cow, and skunk smells, in case you wondered. ;) )

It's funny what we moms think of, dream of, as we do this parenting thing. We've heard it's not about the quantity of time, it's about the quality. Of course, we've also been told you can't have quality without quantity. Then there's all that pressure of training and growing and equipping our child, of pushing them to excel and buffering them from disappointments. But along the way, we want more.

father-and-daughter-1392185-mWe want to make memories, like those we see depicted on Pinterest and Facebook.

At least I do, but too often, the memory I create falls so very short of the one I anticipated. Let's just say, many aren't quite Facebook worthy. Unless I'm going for the laugh-out-louds. Later. Like years later.

Maybe you can relate.

One summer, wanting to introduce our daughter to mountain biking, an activity my husband and I loved to do, I took her to Smithville Lake with it's paved paths and mountain biking trails. Backpack filled with snacks and water; sunscrean and bug repellant on, we were good to go.

My daughter was less than thrilled. Seemed she'd rather stay home. In the air conditioning. With a good book rather than venture out into the 90+, very humid heat.

Strange, I know.

But I was bent on making a memory and convinced she'd love our outing if she just gave it a chance. Or ten.

A mile in, after many starts and stops and lots of complaining, I heard a shriek. One of those long, loud shrieks that can only come from sweet, little nine year-old princesses. Being the highly attentive mom I was, I stopped, listened, mentally debated whether it was a true scream or a stall tactic, and turned to see my daughter flailing frantically, still screaming.

You've heard the midwest has ticks, right? Seemed maybe sometimes there could be a whole nest of them. Seemed my daughter knew exactly where that nest was.

And she wasn't exactly an arachnoid lover.


We can laugh about it now, although I might laugh harder than her. But we survived, as did our relationship. And I'm pretty sure we learned a few things, like:

Sometimes, despite your best laid plans, you land in a tick nest... but that doesn't mean the world has to end.

Flailing and shrieking may hurt one's ears, but it doesn't diminish a mother's love.

You can't let a failed adventure hinder you from trying something new, because the next one might be amazing.

Or not, but at least it'll spark a few wedding-day laughs.

We also learned to cut each other some slack, because honestly, no one lives up to their or other's expectations.

The trick in memory making, I believe, is in how we handle the stink.muddykids

How about you? Do you have any memory-making fails that later turned to laughter? How about any situations, like the mid-winter, living room camp-out I mentioned, that started out frustrating but turned out to be special?

Share your thoughts with us.


  1. […] go, check out my article on finding marital intimacy on Internet Cafe’ Devotions, my post on imperfect memory making on Faith-filled Friends, and my thoughts on finding and holding on to deep and lasting love on Inspy […]

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. You bring up some great points about making memories what we often think will be a great memory is not always the way others see the same thing.
    When my dad past away i remember saying we all remember the same things but in different ways but what dad would want is for us to remember. Our memories our are own and special to us.
    I have many good memories of growing up and of our children growing up.
    One that sticks out to me is one i had in high school. Dressed as a clown i was to walk through the home coming parade with clown company ( several clowns) we road the queens float across town to the beginning of the parade. Just as the parade started we all jumped off to walk the parade. I managed to get run over by the float. Try explaining that to the Doctors and watch them keep a straight face. We all laugh about it now. PS i only dislocated my knee and hip GOD was truly watching out for me that day and every day!!!
    Several years latter when my daughter in law was graduating from college the night before my nose decided to turn bright red and swell three sizes bigger. Once again the clown. GOD loves a good laugh and to keep us humble.

  3. sorry i should have proofed this better

  4. Great post, Jennifer! Our youngest often unleashed one-liners that made the rest of us howl with belly laughter, although she wasn't the least impressed with our humorous take.

    On one occasion, her sister and I sat at our homeschooling table with her working on math. In the stillness, she kept sniffing as she battled with allergies.

    Finally, I'd had enough. "Will you please blow your nose?"

    She gaped at me, curled up her mouth, and said, "I wish you could have my nose for one day and see what a huge responsibility it is!"

    We laugh about it now. ALL of us, for she now has a three-year-old that can sure deliver some hilarious one-liners, though he doesn't always catch the humor.

  5. Oh, my! Ouch! Yes, He does, at that. What caused your nose to swell and turn red? Oh, what a sight that must have been! And what a story you now have to tell! :)

  6. I didn't notice anything unproofed. :) Have a blessed day!

  7. That is so funny! Kids are such a blessing! Our princess is a junior and in the college touring stage, which is a constant reminder to my husband and I that very soon, she will be launching from our nest. We often talk about how quiet our home will be once she's gone. Adore that girl! But my husband and i have a plan. We've decided to save up lots of money for frequent visits to wherever she lands. :)

  8. It's difficult--that first launch. But they do come back, as my firstborn reminded me during her transition from high school to college. And boy, was she right! We've enjoyed the opportunity of housing our little missionary families for extended periods of time. And love it! Given their mission work, we get them in bulk, not spread out like many families. But we consider each and every contact a special gift from God and an investment in their lives and ministries.

    Praying for you during this transition time!

  9. We really don't know. Maybe a dog scratch from my sweet pom Hershey. Yes, it was quite the sight and i tried my best to hide it with make up for the graduation. lol

  10. Great post, Jennifer! I love your point that "you can’t let a failed adventure hinder you from trying something new, because the next one might be amazing." When I think of my own "memory making fails," the first time I hosted my in-laws for dinner comes to mind. As a young newlywed, my forte was not cooking, but I wanted to impress my new mother-in-law, who happened to be an incredible cook. As a result, I tackled a recipe far above my experience level, and in my fumbling, I managed to catch our stove on fire. Smoke filled the apartment and smoke detectors blared, forcing me to open doors and windows praying the air would clear before our guests arrived. Just as I was pointing a box fan out the front door to speed the smoke's exit, my in-laws showed up early to a clouded, smelly mess. We laugh about it now, but that day, I was in tears. Just think of all the lovely meals I would have missed if I hadn't been brave enough to give cooking for others another try. What you said is very true: "The trick in memory making . . . is in how we handle the stink." AMEN!

  11. Oh, my! That is so funny! And adorable, and actually, very sweet. :) I imagine they felt honored to initiate such effort in you. :) I hope your stove recovered!

  12. Oh, I remember those smells! Living in Central Florida, before tourists, our city was known for two things. Disney and the rodeo. Schools were even in for Presidents Day, but out for Rodeo Day. Lol!

    Great post, Jennifer! Thanks for sharing your memories and taking me down my own. =)

  13. I knew we had a lot in common, and now it seems, we can add stink to our commonality list. ;)

    Wow, that is crazy, getting off for rodeos! And yet, what special family times those days probably created. Assuming folks got off work, too. :)

  14. The stove recovered, but sadly, a brand new dish towel and pot holder did not. I don't remember even tasting my food that night, since I felt like such a failure, but alas! My in-laws still love me and none of us died of starvation. All's well that ends well, right?

  15. Absolutely. :) And now, when your daughter or son-in-law do something embarressing catastrophic, you'll remember your fire with empathetic fondness. :)