Your Kids Won’t Remember All The Things You Did To Make Their Lives Better
By Yumna Siddiqui-Khan
Photo © mindytingson/Twenty20
May 20, 2019
Is there a memory you carry with you from your childhood?
Is it the noise of the first carnival you visited with your family? Or is it the quiet of being in your mom’s arms on a sick day? Is it the day you first met your sibling in a hospital room? Or is it weekly dinners at grandma’s house? Is it a big moment, a celebration, a vacation? Or is it a small, inconsequential event?
Right now, I’ve got a pot of chicken corn soup bubbling on the stove while my daughter sits by the living room window, flipping through a book she is obsessed with.
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Aromas have wings on the backs of which you can travel to a different time and place. The smell of chicken corn soup takes me back to my childhood.
I was raised in northern Pakistan where summers are unsurprisingly hot, but winters can be unusually cold. It doesn’t snow, but large concrete houses with airy verandas and big windows designed for temperamental summers ensure that winters are felt.
Winter in that region means gas heaters, large woolen shawls and street vendors who sell roasted peanuts, coffee and hot bowls of chicken corn soup.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting in the backseat of the family car, driving with my parents and brother to a street vendor, and waiting in anticipation of soup.
This memory is crystal clear in my mind, but also hazy around the edges, like a glowing flashback in a movie.
We would drive up to the food stall and my dad would order four bowls of the soup, and while I waited, I would stare at the asphalt on the street with fascination. During summer months, vendors sold cold Limca bottles on the same street. They would pop off the tops of the bottles, which would land on the street and become embedded into the asphalt when cars drove over them. Under the headlights of cars, they would gleam like fireflies in a dark field on a summer night.
What a strange thing to remember.
The lasting memories may not be expensive vacations or perfectly planned birthday parties.
Then the soup would arrive and it would fog up our windows instantly. I remember the china bowl in my small hands, its heat permeating my fingers, the hypnotic steam rising from the thick liquid and the first hesitant sip. The taste, oh the taste. I am still searching for a soup that tastes like that.
Childhood memories are unparalleled in their perfection and purity because you have seen so little of the world that every new experience comes with this luminosity, this ferocity, this sense of wonderment that adulthood eventually robs of you.
I can’t explain why this specific memory is a lasting one. Maybe it was the sense of excitement I felt on these short, simple trips in the family car. Maybe it is the earliest memory I have of a sense of closeness with my parents and brother. Maybe it was the fascination with the bottle caps or maybe it was the soup. It was probably just the soup.
Needless to say, as I stir the pot of soup in my kitchen today, it stirs up a happy melancholy inside me.
After we’ve chowed down the soup, my daughter snuggles up next to me on the living room couch and purrs like cat. I wrap my arms around her and wonder what she will take with her from childhood.
Isn’t that all we want as parents? To hope that the memories our children will carry into adulthood will be happy, meaningful ones?
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Aren’t the trips to the zoo, the scheduled activities, the summer camps and family vacations all about enriching our children’s childhoods and filling them with meaningful experiences?
What is important to remember is that it may not be the karate class that makes a lasting impression on a child, but perhaps the car ride to the class that allowed them to spend time with a parent. The lasting memories may not be expensive vacations or perfectly planned birthday parties. They could just be the simple, innocuous moments where we slow down and snuggle on the couch, or take our time to eat ice cream together on a hot summer day, or laze around in bed on a Sunday morning, or sit in a fogged up car, slurping up chicken corn soup.
All I hope, as my child catnaps, is that the moments she takes with her from childhood are chicken soup for her soul.
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