When I am old (old enough to be a grandmother, anyway) I want to remember what it was like to clean my daughter’s room. I want to remember the debris I found—the collection of things discovered and pilfered—bottlecaps and plastic hearts, dismembered paper roses, small shampoo bottles twice taken (once from a hotel, once again from our bathroom).
Juice containers with a circle of mold in the bottom.
Love notes to herself, to her brother, to me, her father, her special friends.
And horses galore—horses on books, horses under the bed. Broken horses, half horses, whole horses, plastic and porcelain horses. Horses in motion and lying down. Horses on pillows, eating beads from containers that belong in the kitchen.
When I am old, I want to remember how infuriating it was to clean up this mess—an hour, sometimes two, just so that I could vacuum the room. I want to remember how hard I tried to teach my daughter responsibility and cleanliness, and how hard she tried to learn.
Because over a period of time—months, years—she did get better at it. And I know there will be a time when the debris will be swept from my life, and I will look at empty rooms (they will hold only furniture), wondering what to do with myself.
When I am old (old enough to be a grandmother, anyway) I want to remember the fear that trilled through my stomach when the nurse called from school in those first few seconds before I knew—was it just a sniffle? Or a broken arm?
I want to remember how everything stopped, and the world piled up around me, while I took care of other bodies long after I thought I would be independent of their needs. I want to remember how I cried, and screamed, and negotiated, how they cried, and argued, and listened.
When I am old I want to remember the day my daughter left the house in purple socks and a turquoise outfit. When I told her I didn’t think this was the best choice in fashion, she replied, “Don’t criticize me,” without a hint of defensiveness—in fact, she said it with amused affection.
When I said, “I’m not criticizing you,” she replied, in the same sweet way, “Yes you are.”
“Okay,” I said, “I am. But I’m doing it with love. The socks don’t match, you know.”
And here is why I want to remember this day, these moments, apart from all the others—she said, “I like them that way.” And she wore them out the door.
When I am old, I want to remember my son’s face alight with a grin as he reaches up to hug me, one arm broken and one arm whole, the mess of his little life surrounding us.