By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Time lends age-old perspective on childhood memories
The 4-year-old suns himself while I think about deep things. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
I loved to splash in puddles when I was a toddler.

I dont remember it, but its what Ive been told.

One of my parents favorite stories to tell is about the time we went to Williamsburg, Virginia, to visit the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg. As the story goes, my parents bought tickets for each of us to go into a particular building, but it had just rained and I was busy stomping in the puddles outside.

My mother looked at me and considered which activity I would enjoy more the puddle or the museum and decided to let my dad stay outside with me while the rest of the family went on the tour. The sight of me enjoying those puddles with the kind of unfettered joy available only to a 2-year-old had such an impact on my parents they never forgot it. They smiled and told me the story again and again when I played in the rain as a child, watched rainstorms as a teenager and when I had my own toddlers looking for standing water.

I took the story in over the years, chuckling at myself in an egotistical way as I relished hearing my parents talk about me. But I never quite understood why that little event would make such an impact on my parents that they would tell the story decades later, continuing the tradition now with my children.

That changed when I had my own puddle moment this week with my son.

I took my two youngest children for a run one morning, plopping them next to each other in the double stroller that becomes unwieldy under their weight. The morning was beautiful, blue and clear, sunny and not too warm. I gave them each a granola bar and promised them a sucker if theyd behave, then I plugged my ears with my headphones and started down the road.

My 4-year-old kept seeing things that were much more interesting than just sitting in the stroller while I plugged uphill, and he asked over and over if we could do something else.

Oh, lets stop and get some rocks, mom! he said when we passed his favorite rock pile.

Not today, I panted. More weight was the last thing I needed.

Lets stop and look at the water, mom! he said when we passed his favorite little waterfall.

Maybe on the way back, I wheezed. If I stopped, then I never would have started again.

We reached the end of our loop, and I circled back, giving the boys their lollypops as a reward for not flinging themselves from the stroller while I ran, and to try to buy their goodwill for the rest of the ride back.

As we neared home, we passed the waterfall again, and I pulled over so the 4-year-old could get a better look. We stood there for a few moments as he took in the sound of the rushing water and scoured the surface of the pond below for any signs of fish.

We stood there longer than I normally would, and I had a flashback to a memory I had of my childhood. I was young, probably my sons age, and I had traveled with my mother to visit a distant relative a ways away. I dont remember anything about the relative, but I remember tiptoeing on a cement wall in the parking lot while my mother talked to her friend. Somehow, I fell off the little wall and cut open my lip, which left a little scar that I still have today.

As I watched my son, the memory amused me, and it occurred to me that my son might not remember riding in the stroller as I ran that morning, but he would remember stretching his little body along the rock wall as he sucked on his lollypop and gazed up at the sky. He might remember finding the little orange fish in the pond, and seeing a little turtle with the red streaks down its head swim around, climb onto a rock in the sun and jump back in. It occurred to me that that was a memory he might have when he was in his 30s, and whatever it was I felt I needed to rush home for could wait.

Thats when I realized why my parents have held on to that memory of me in the puddles for so long. I imagine it was not so much about me in the water as it was the choice they made to let me be there. Sure, I was probably cute, but their decision to sacrifice their plans, time and money for me in that moment an option shared by millions of parents a million times a day was more powerful.

Were busy. We have things we need to do. Weve got to keep the wheels rolling or nothing will ever get done.

But in the moment, sometimes the thing to do is stop.