What anyone wants to remember

Beth, your recent comment reminded me of this wonderful trip. Beth, Mom, Dad, Al and me in Montego Bay, Jamaica, February 1973

Beth, your recent comment reminded me of this wonderful impromptu vacation.
My friend Beth, brother Al and I skipped school to go to Montego Bay with Mom and Dad.
Jamaica, February 1973

“A childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it.”Carol Shields

“A happy childhood can’t be cured.  Mine’ll hang around my neck like a rainbow…”
Hortense Calisher

I’ve written before about how it can be difficult being a child or young person, and that’s more true for some than for others.  Most of us, I think, have a blend of good memories and bad ones, but even these are relative.  Some of what we would describe as bad memories might sound fairly benign to anyone who has endured true abuse or trauma.

I think my own childhood was fortunate and blessed.  The happy memories are far more lasting and influential today than the unhappy ones.  Calisher’s quote charmed me because it seemed such an apt description. We carry the happy times of our youth with us, and I think others can see signs of it, even when we are unaware that it shows.

I feel the deepest gratitude to my parents for giving me such a foundation, and to my family and friends for decorating my early years with humor, adventure and joy.  You are all part of the rainbow I wear, the one that gives me hope on my most difficult days.  I hope all of you who read this can reach back into your own memories, and find colors that glow in the dark.

One year ago today:

Memory is a child

And speaking of children, Grady wishes you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Leprechaun Grady Mar 2014


  1. Raynard

    Juila,When my mom passed away in 1990, a few of my sister’s “divided’ her photo albums between us. The only pictures I have of me is grade school and baby pictures. Other than that, pictures I took with my kids and army pictures 1981- 1990’s. Funny you mention childhood memories. My wife just gave a box of pictures to one of her sister’s visiting from NC to be divided between the rest of her sisters and brothers per her late mother’s instructions in her will. memories of my childhood. Summer dinners on the back porch, the hydrainas, roses and grape vine in the backyard, we had some”ducks, turtles, cats, dogs and fish. block parties, “the little park bewteen 2 buildings the candy store “that had more security than”FT Knox” milk that came in bottles with a handle, the catholic school on the corner and not leaving my own neighborhood unless it was to ride the school bus and you felt safe.. be blessed BTW David Brenner passed away this weekend, i remember watch him on Johnny Carson many many times growing up in the 70’s

    • Raynard, thanks so much for sharing those memories – when you said “milk that came in bottles with a handle” I had an immediate memory of those old glass milk bottles from the dairy, that were delivered and left in our milk box outside, an aluminum insulated rectangle with the words “Atlanta Dairies” printed on front in red. WOW, I had forgotten all about that. I can remember sometimes when we were outside playing I would sit on that milk box. Now through the wonder of the internet I can see a photo just like our old milk box. We too had a candy store within walking distance – it was really a convenience store, but to us as kids it was a candy store. It was called (I am not making this up) Ye Olde Shoppe and the family that owned it were neighbors. So much that you mentioned struck chords in my own memories…block parties, animals, parks and feeling safe. I feel lucky to have grown up when I did and I’ll bet you do too. Thanks for being here!

      • Raynard

        Julia forgot to mention about all those animals this was when I lived in our first house in Brooklyn NY and who can forget about the toys that came in the cereal. I can still remember the names of our bus drivers that drove the school bus and whenever me or my two younger sisters go back home,we visit our old grade school and still call it “Our School”

        • Oh yes, I do remember those cereal toys. In fact, John Updike wrote a funny poem about finding dinosaurs in his cereal. My mother used to get mad at me for eating up those sugary cereals as snacks instead of breakfast. I could easily eat half a box in one sitting. Later she got into health foods and was horrified I had eaten so much unhealthy stuff. I still think of my old elementary school as “our school” although I never go back there anymore because I wouldn’t know any of the people there. It’s still open, though, and looks basically the same as when I went there. It looked as if it had been kept in good shape the last time I saw it, which was several years ago now.

  2. Happy St Patrick Day to you and Grady. 🙂
    Most people have selective memories in regard to their child hood. Some happy times along with the sad…

    • Merry, I think my memory is VERY selective, as others sometimes tell me a story they recall that I had completely forgotten about. Most of these are happy or at least neutral memories so I have always wondered what it is that makes us remember some things and not others. Then sometimes I will hear or read something (such as Raynard mentioning the milk bottles) that will call up memories buried deep that I didn’t realize were there. Thanks for being here with us today!

  3. Thanks for sharing the lovely memory and the precious picture of your grandson.

    • Marjorie, you’re welcome! I got such a smile out of seeing Grady’s face that I could not resist adding it to the post for today. I appreciate your visits here!

  4. Amy

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day Grady. You are too cute.

    • Thanks Amy! Of course you know, I agree with you!

  5. Jack

    On Saturday of last week, our turkey season opened in Alabama. As I wandered through the woods I recall, as I do now that I’m older, all those times as a little boy when my dad would take me to hunt or fish or farm or play golf. He didn’t do it because I was good company or skilled in any of those things, he did it because he knew how healthy those things would be for me if I came, as I did, to love them. At the time, I only focused on his flaws, his imperfections, the words he couldn’t help but speak when I did something wrong. Today, I can’t see any of that stuff, I just see the good, the love, the sacrifice.

    • Thanks Jack, for sharing these beautiful thoughts. All of us who are parents can only hope our children remember us with the same sense of perspective you have. You have captured the essence of our well-meaning, imperfect attempts to demonstrate what feels (to us) like a perfect love for our children. I think most parents know, on some level, that it’s OK for our kids to see our flaws because that too prepares them for a happy life later on. Their rejection and criticism of us can sting at the time but we hope and trust that someday they’ll understand it all a lot better. I think most of us end up with that sort of understanding, and I’m happy you obviously have! I appreciate your visits and comments here.

  6. singleseatfighterpilot

    Grady looks kinda like an Irish kid 🙂 And to Julia, I suggest a two-fold retrospective: The series of airline trips that began in 1971 (prior to that, Al said “we go to Jekyll Island almost every year”) forms the basis of much of what you refer to as a happy childhood. These same trips served to form your lifelong identity — a citizen of the world.

    • Eric, Grady definitely does look Irish, I think! No question, travel constitutes a huge part of my happy memories of childhood, going back even before 1971 (I remember especially fondly the trip Al and I took with Daddy soon after he checked out as Captain, a turnaround to Rome, Georgia, just because we wanted a plane ride! I think it was a Convair. And the flight attendant let me help her serve the passengers. Those days are long gone!)

      However, other aspects of that happy childhood have been described elsewhere, in my posts about grandparents, cameras, pets, reading with Carla and Beth, and Christmas fun, along with other things. So, while the trips were important, I think the basis is really formed by a feeling of security that can only come from feeling safe and loved and free to explore everything my considerable curiosity found interesting.

      I don’t really think of myself as a Citizen of the world — I’ve never even been to most of it — but I did grow up thinking of it as a smaller place than it seemed to many of my friends; someplace mostly friendly and worth visiting someday. I hope I’ll eventually be able to visit Asia, Africa, South America and maybe even Antarctica, but until that time, I really love the chance to visit those places online!

  7. Oh My Good Gosh, if I could like a dozen times, I surely would. Just look at Grady’s smile, he is melting hearts today Julia. Now if you could just bottle all that cuteness you’d be a ba-zillionaire overnight.

    Your vintage Montego Bay photo is so fun too. What a tiny little thing you are. I always love the colours this old photo’s take on years later. It’s wonderful to have nice childhood memories. I have many too. Mostly everyday things as we didn’t really go on holidays. A holiday was a weekend out to the farm. Or my friends would take pity on me and their parents would invite me along on their trips. Childhood days seem so long while you’re there, yet I blinked and here we are 2014 and half way thru life. To some extend, I think there’s much to the ol’ saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I had so many wonderful people influence me as a child, I’m grateful for many.

    • Thanks, I agree that Grady is a doll! I’m glad you enjoyed his photo, brought to you by this card-carrying Silly Grandmother.

      As Eric perhaps intended to point out in his earlier comment, we didn’t go on many holidays in the early years of my childhood, but there were lots of other fun things to remember. To a kid it doesn’t take anything big to be special and memorable. As you say, I’m grateful to so many people who were part of our family’s life. When you think of all the teachers, neighbors and friends who play roles it really does put meaning behind the old saying about it taking a village to raise a child. In Matt’s case that has been extra-true, as our family has relied on so many people we would never have met otherwise, who have helped to make his life complete. I think we all need each other more than we realize, but young parents (or old ones such as I) are in a position to realize just how much difference it makes to have people who are willing to lend a hand in a practical way.

  8. Debbie

    Love the picture of Grady, make sure his parents save it and show it to him as I did last night when our son Philip came over to celebrate “Family Day” , the day he was adopted and came home to live with us. It was right before St. Patrick’s Day and he had the same hat on in his green sleeper. 25 years later and he is now interested in seeing pictures and videos and our first few years together. We had a great time looking and laughing last night. I hope he remembers a happy childhood. My childhood memories also include a family owned store where we used to go and buy penny candy. My mom would give me a quarter to buy a loaf of bread and the rest I got to buy candy with. It did get less and less as the years went by and bread soon cost more then 25cents. When we were older, the store owners let us buy sodas and then but them back in the cooler if we could not finish them and go play and come back and drink them later. I can not image that ever happening today. Hope your day is filled with good times and memories.

    • Debbie, what a sweet memory! Thanks for sharing it and Congratulations on 25 wonderful years!! A lot has changed but apparently those hats are still the same! 🙂 How fun that you had a store where you could “store” your sodas. You’re right, that would never happen today. Isn’t it fun remembering those old stores? My grandparents (my mother’s parents) ran a little store in North Alabama and to me that one was a candy store too. I remember the big glass jars with penny candies in them. No wonder I have so many fillings in my teeth! Thanks for visiting – Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a true red-letter day for you!

  9. Sheila

    Little Grady, you’ve made so many folks happy today with your precious smile. Julia, thank you for sharing this on his first St. Patrick’s Day. The comments have been wonderful, as was your blog. Love the photo! We have really been quite happy today in the wonderful memories of Dad. I was thinking of all the photos and home movies that we have, thanks to him. They will only become more valuable with time. 🙂 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Thank you, Sheila! I was just thinking of you, because I just now added Walter’s photo at the end of tomorrow’s post. (It’s about birds, so how could I resist?) Please let me know if you want me to pull it – I hope you don’t mind my sharing it. He’s such a gorgeous fellow and we could really use some bright colors right now! I’m so glad you have had a happy day today. How wonderful that he left you the legacy of photos and movies to share and remember. Happy St. Pat’s to you too! Ours has been more WHITE than green – we got about 6 inches of snow in Alexandria!

      • Sheila

        From Walter: “Holy Moly, Juia…..I’m flattered.” 🙂

        • I’m so happy to see that Walter pronounces my name in the way many southern people tend to do (leaving out the “l” sound)! He is so adorable. His colorful feathers cheer me up!

  10. Jenelle

    Aw, Grady is precious beyond description. Recently, I had a heart to heart with my dad, and I left the conversation feeling blessed and grateful for my upbringing, even the trials, because I would not be who I am today without that foundation you mentioned, Julia. While my ultimate foundation is Christ, my parents taught me how to build on top of that, and that is something my husband and I are consistently trying to do with our children.

    • Thanks for your comments about Grady! Of course this card-carrying Silly Grandmother loves to hear them! I am so glad you were able to have a nice chat with your father. Those of us who still have our parents with us here on earth are fortunate to be able to have those precious times. It sounds as if your parents have given you a good example of how to carry out that “firm foundation” tradition with your own children. It sounds corny to say that our hopes for the future of the world depend on our kids, but it’s so true. Blessings to you as you devote your time and energy to “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” 🙂

  11. Love your family photo–sure looks like you enjoyed yourselves! had to be worth playing hooky!

    • Thanks Cynthia, it definitely was! Since our high school was located near the Atlanta airport, there were plenty of airline kids who were students there, and the faculty took a fairly lenient position on allowing us to travel in the “off season” since we all flew space-A and couldn’t usually go at the holiday times. My principal once said that we would learn more from travel than we would ever learn in a classroom anyway. Wise man!

  12. Fabulous photos, then and now. Grady is a cutey-pie and so are you.

    • Thank you, we just got some more cute photos of Grady today, and Jeff concluded that he must know he’s posing for pictures! We can’t wait to see him again now that he’s crawling and pulling up.

      • It’s so fun once they’re active. I still remember the day my son walked for the first time. It was magical.

        • Yes, it’s fun and also exhausting, I felt as if I had to be on “high alert” all the time because the can get into something messy or dangerous so quickly! But I love how curious they are about every little thing. Megan just sent us a video of Grady crawling to play with the space heater and cord, which seem to fascinate him. Luckily they didn’t let him near the business end of the cord!

          • Oh yes, I remember the days well. It is exhausting. Just a few years back I offered to babysit for a grandfather around the corner. He didn’t have a car seat, but was in a panic and had the 1 year old in the front seat. I was horrified. We kept her for about an hour and like you said, high alert. Gradually, all the childproofing goes by the wayside. Then when a little one is on the scene you realize all the little things you stopped worrying about (like cords, coins, small objects down low, etc.)

            • Bless you for helping that gentleman out. I freak out when I see a kid not in a car seat. Once an older person told me “I raised five kids with no car seats and the all came out fine.” I thought, You are very lucky whether you know it or not. Being able to relax about what is lying around the home is one of the perks of getting older! Of which there are many, I might add. 🙂

              • Once I saw her unstrapped in the car, it felt like a moral obligation. She looked so small and vulnerable.

                I’m always a little annoyed when people say things like “I raised five kids..blah blah blah.” Imagine all the parents that wished they still had a child that died in a car accident. He just got lucky.

                • Yes, it’s like people who claim they can drive drunk and never have any problems. (I’ve heard that argument too; generally the offenders don’t think of themselves as drunk even when they obviously have no business on the road.) I always want to say, “What will it take to open your eyes? Will it take a tragedy?” Unfortunately, nobody will listen to that kind of talk and it just makes people mad, so I had to resign as the cop of the universe.

                  • LOL! Yes, I hear that. We can only change ourselves, and hope that we influence others through example.

                    • That’s a truth it took me a long time to learn, and sometimes I still have a hard time applying it! 😀

                    • Oh yes oh yes oh yes.

  13. MaryAnn

    WOW! What a cheerful, happy baby! It always indicates to me that the child feels well-loved & cared for when I see this much joy on a baby’s face!

    • Mary Ann, he does seem to be one of the happiest kids I know. Not always, of course…according to Drew, he is starting to learn how to protest when something he finds interesting is taken away from him! But I do think he seems to be very well-loved and that makes us very happy. 🙂

  14. Beth

    Julia, what a memorable trip! It’s odd that I can’t remember the flights coming and returning home. We were very fortunate to have the luxury of travel in those days, and I’m still traveling standby to this day. Another fond memory is our trip to San Francisco, and riding the cable cars. On my desk is a San Francisco music box cable car, a daily reminder of what felt like a brush with critical injury on those steep hills. How I’d love to do it again! 🙂

    • Beth, I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed more than I did on those cable cars that day. In my memory, they were so crowded we were actually hanging more onto the backs of strangers than onto the rails of the car itself, and I was so weak from laughter, I was afraid I couldn’t hold on tightly enough on those steep hills! And speaking of”brush,” when we would pass another car we’d all have to lean way in and still we would brush backs with the other car. That was my first experience with riding them and it was love at first crazy sight. Years later when we lived nearby I rode them all the time (on a Muni Pass which allowed unlimited rides), but learned to stay away from them when they are crowded — especially the long lines at the Powell-Mason turnaround near Fisherman’s Wharf, totally INSANE. The Powell-Hyde is a much better ride in my opinion! There are a relatively higher number of injuries on them than on most public transportation, I believe, but I think it’s way less dangerous if they’re not crowded — which is probably not often, but it used to be you could find times to ride them and have a seat (sideways, facing the streets, of course, for great visibility) the entire way. The California line is the least crowded, especially among tourists. Next time you go back, get a Muni pass and use it to ride the buses (and lesser known but also fun street cars) and choose your cable car times when they are less crowded – except for maybe one hysterically fun sardine special! BTW I bought one of those music boxes for myself in Chinatown before we moved to Virginia, and used to use it to ward off homesickness, thought it had the opposite effect. I’m guessing yours plays the same song mine does…kind of a no-brainer! Thanks for the memories! Don’t get me started on Jamaica – I would go on forever…

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