When we were little my sister and I liked to eat chapstick – any flavor or even plain would do but my favorite was orange. There was something about the smell that I loved so much. If we were in the mood for nighttime snack, we’d sneak stealth-like into my parent’s bathroom and rummage around in the bottom drawer until we came up with a tube of whatever we could find.
We’d talk in what we thought were whispers, while we snacked like little chipmunks. I don’t know how old we were, but I do know my sister (who is two years older than me) was old enough to feel guilty. As a penance she smothered Dad’s toothbrush, we assumed the balm was Dad’s because Mom used lipstick, with toothpaste and left it, bristles up, next to the sink. Such a good helper.
One morning Dad said something like, “you guys can eat all the chapstick you want but please don’t put toothpaste on my toothbrush.” Apparently it dried and hardened and in the morning he had to chisel it off. Sorry Dad. Oh and, sorry Mom for eating your chapstick.
The other night while getting into bed I notice red streaks that look like blood on a crinkled tissue stuffed into the top of the Kleenex box. I pull it out to throw it away and smell something sweet. That’s not blood. I smell again. Definitely not blood. In my night stand drawer, you guessed it, the lid is off and the balm has been scraped out with a tiny finger. The Dr Pepper Lip Smackers has been compromised.
Don’t even start with me about all the chemicals Lip Smackers. I should have thrown Dr Pepper away long ago, replaced it with my 100% organic food-grade quality (perfect for eating) premium shea butter, encased in a BPA and phthalate free tube, but it’s a relic from my past. It was hard to let go.
That’s all beside the point. Suddenly, I realized we’re here: she’s reaching the age where tangible memory begins. It’s possible she’ll remember some of these days, some moments, not as a general feeling, a haze of babyness, but as specific moments that have, I don’t know, quotation marks. Maybe this isn’t exactly what happened, maybe I haven’t remembered Dad’s words correctly but that’s the way memory works. What’s important here is not the accuracy but the solidity.
On one hand, this is terrifying. What about all my mistakes, the times I get frustrated, I do the wrong thing? She’s watching, remembering, cataloguing, probably with the dewey decimal system, saving all these moments for her teenage years.
But this new phase of tangible memory is also a relief because here we are, mother and daughter (both with an appetite for lip balm), making it though our days and our nights. Working it out. We’ve made it this far and hopefully, if our luck continues, we’ll have a lot more time together, good and bad, to remember.