At the end of 1995, my husband and I packed up our home and daughters and traded in our California lives for a new life in New Hampshire. So my mother would not miss out on any of our adventures, I would email her daily about my new friends, new house, my daughters' nursery school and surviving the brisk New England winter with my Southern California jacket.
I would write about a variety of subjects: Our day trips to Maine, what I burnt for dinner, possible explanations for why my girls weren't napping and, most importantly, when oh when could she fly out and see me? As my girls grew older, they too would email my mother or 'Instant Message' her and tell her about their days, their school work, their play groups and the latest clothes they loved at their all-time-favorite store, Limited Too.
Our move to Wisconsin in 1998 and the birth of our son created a whole new slew of stories, all of which my mother would receive in daily or sometimes-more-frequent emails.
Unbeknown to me, my perceptive mother saved and printed every email sent to her through the years and kept them neatly in several files. Yes. That is correct. Every single email and instant message she filed away, although she had no specific idea why she was saving them.
A mother's instinct told her to keep them. My father would later tell me that he would often ask my mother what she planned on doing with the volumes of files she was storing. She didn't know. She wasn't sure. But she would think of something she said. Well think of something she did.
For my big milestone birthday last week, my mother gave me: The. Best. Gift. Ever. Titled 'Hugs from a Hoarder,' she presented me with a beautifully gift-wrapped box. Carefully opening the package I found inside storybooks of my life from the past 15 years. She had weeded through every single email that she had saved and presented me with nine volumes of books of our correspondence. It was unexpected and overwhelming.
That evening, my parents, brother, sister and I spent hours reading every page of every book. Long forgotten stories resurfaced, classic memories were retold and endless laughter prevailed. It was amazing. Snapshots of the most cherished part of my life had been given back to me.
When my children were smaller, I had tried to keep a journal. I wrote five entries before I gave it up. To be honest, it was five entries in a two-year period. I just didn't have the energy as fatigue and lack of brain cells at the end of a long day always won out. But every night I would manage to retell the day's events to my mother in an email. I didn't realize, until I re-read my emails, how much I had forgotten. Fifty years after giving birth to me, my mother gave me back my most precious memories of raising my own children.
The. Best. Gift. Ever.
Julie McGuire is a busy Lake Oswego mother of three children and a monthly columnist for the Tidings' sister newspaper Lake Oswego Review. When she's not playing chauffeur, she writes a blog, 'From the Mudroom,' at www.sospouse.blogspot.com.