Dear Future Stella,
They say that for a memory to make it to the VIP section of your longterm storage it must be peppered with intense emotion of some kind. This could be trauma or elation, terror or excitement. The event could be profound, awe-inspiring and possibly even life changing. It could also be deeply troubling. You not only just remember the significant parts of the day, but you often can recount little minuet details like what you were wearing or what the air smelled like.
My first memory ever was when my parents were married. I was 4. I remember my floral print dress and having a little trouble getting out of the car. I can still hear the rushing of the river behind us as we stood to take pictures. I remember the shape of the cups people were drinking from. I can still picture the gesture of my father kneeling down to put a locket around my neck, although I can’t quite recall what he said to me. Based on my experience with Current Stella at age 4, there is no way I was mature enough to grasp the significant of that day and yet my brain knew to hold on to it. I couldn’t have realized in that moment that my dad was choosing a life with a single mom with two small children and not just accepting a role as a Step-father but actually becoming our Dad. I couldn’t have grasped how insane it was for a young, broke, Jewish dude to start a life with my even younger, more broke, Christian mother. I probably did sense the fairytale-ness of it all, the true happiness and joy that eminates off two people that are soul mates. Perhaps I was even able to feel a sense of safety and security for the first time in a while and that overwhelming sense of relief and love is what catipulted that memory into that sacred place in the brain that never lets you forget. It could have also been the dress I was forced to wear. It was a disaster and a huge fashion no-no. Yeah, it was probably the dress.
I often wonder which of Current Stella’s memories are going to go the distance. She’s old enough now where there might even be one or two of those stashed away. Perhaps the day we brought Gail the Puppy home and she immediately chewed up Current Stella’s favorite flip flops. It was so adorable that I would have to think she held on to it. I know I did. Or the time she had to be hospitalized for 2 nights in Mexico. That was sure traumatizing for everyone, especially for the nice nurse that I questioned if hospitalization was really necessary given that we had a cabana waiting poolside at our upscale resort. She then explained (in Spanglish) what it means exactly when a child’s bronchial tubes are collapsing and I kissed that wonderful, sunny, margarita-laced afternoon goodbye.
Or perhaps she will remember yesterday in perfect clarity. Yesterday had so many different emotions both negative and positive that it just might qualify for one of those days that you bring up to your therapist. Here is what happened yesterday, although I am guessing that you remember it like it was yesterday.
We were scheduled to get out of town right after school and drive 3.5 hours down to San Luis Obispo to watch your Papa receive the tremendous honor of being inducted into the Cal Poly Athletic Hall of Fame. It was a big freaking deal and we all had to get dressed up and I took 1.5 days off of work and we were even staying at a sweet hotel on the beach. We left even earlier than we had originally planned, giving us a full extra hour of time for incidentals.
Your dad picked Current Stella up from school and then they both picked me up from work with the car packed ready to go. I got in the car and Current Stella had a blanket over her head. Kids do weird shit all the time so I thought nothing of it and proceeded to prepare my seat and surrounding area for longterm use (I basically prepare like an upright nap-friendly zone). Your dad seemed a bit stressed, borderline angry-ish. Angry-ish is the most angry he ever gets but it’s never like severe or that obvious. I can tell, and you probably know, Future Stella, what angry-ish looks like on him. Anyway, he said, “Why don’t you tell mommy why you have that blanket on your head?” Silence. So I asked her why she has a blanket on her head. More silence and a tiny bit of whiny noises. These days Current Stella is incapable of going 10 seconds without making some sort of whining noise. I look to your dad to just tell me because my nap was waiting and I was running out of patience. He spills the beans and tells me that you cut your hair while at school. The teacher found a pile of hair on the table where she was sitting. Current Stella vehemently denied these accusations both to her teacher and to her dad. Your dad hates being lied to and since he could obviously see her new bangs he was angry-ish. To a hair stylist, cutting your own bangs is one of the worst, most tragic lapse of judgments a person could have. At this point the blanket was still on her head and so I had no idea the severity of the situation we were dealing with. It could be a no-biggie-let’s-just-switch-her-part-or-clip-it-up-for-the-next-couple-of-weeks kind of deal or a holy-fuck-pull-over-immediately-so-we-can-use-roadside-assistance-to-bring-us-clip-in-extensions-right-now kind of deal. Current Stella was not removing her blanket and little kids can be stronger than they appear because I could not pull it off myself. I asked your dad how much she cut and if it looked even and if it was blending with her layers and he was still focusing on the lying about it part and right about then is when we came to a dead stop on the freeway. Traffic. Ok, no big deal, I was not worried in the slightest. It will clear up once we get to San Jose, it always does. We have plenty of time.
The estimated time on our GPS just kept increasing and your dad was accelerating up to 15 miles an hour to move forward 3 inches then he would slam on the breaks. It made it impossible for me to enter into Napland but it also made it quite impossible for Current Stella to keep that stupid blanket on her head. Eventually I got to see the bangs, and I have to say, given those pathetic excuse for scissors that they make kids use these days and the fact that she didn’t have a mirror, comb, or styling products, they didn’t look bad at all. Your dad, however, was still angry-ish and made no less than 10 more comments about lying and threatened that if Current Stella cuts her hair again then he would give her his haircut.
Here is a shot of Current Stella and her new asymmetrical side swept bangs.
The traffic wasn’t stopping and neither was Current Stella’s whining voice. She was performing the longest monologue ever and she still has not dropped the habit of beginning every sentence with “Maw-ma” so for the first time in a long time your Dad was possibly going to drop the ish from his angry. This is where this memory could enter into the traumatizing category. You see, although Current Stella was being on another level of annoying, it wasn’t the reason he was dropping the ish. Your dad was stressing out hardcore that all this traffic was going to cause him to miss your Papa’s big night and he was unnecessarily taking it out on you. We both were. Please explain this to your therapist. We basically told Current Stella to quit talking. We might have also told her that she’s annoying. It was a bit harsh.
At some point your dad was able to regather the ish to his angry and we played a really fun educational car game. Current Stella would say a letter and then we would have to come up with words that start with that letter. For instance, Current Stella would say L. I would say love, she would say lizard and your dad would say lick, then lips, then labia. Current Stella changed it to D. I said dog, she said door, your dad said diarrhea. Current Stella said T. Your dad just kept saying traffic over and over again. It was really fun.
Perhaps this day made it to your longterm memory because it was the longest time anyone has ever spend in traffic. It took us more than two extra hours to get to a destination your dad and I have traveled hundreds of times. This destination of course is both of our hometowns- San Luis Obispo, specifically the college your dad was lucky enough to attend and the place your Papa called home for many, many years. We came barreling into a gas station parking lot where we changed into our fancy dresses in a bathroom that was in dire need of some attention.
We missed the cocktail reception (huge mistake), and most of the dinner and found our seats right before all the inductees took the stage. There were seven athletes getting recognition this year, and your Papa was one of them. Each story was so inspiring and incredible- there was even a two-time Olympian! I can’t believe we almost missed this ceremony because I got way more out of it than I was expecting. First, your Papa is one amazing man. He’s kind of a big deal. Second, I realized I have not accomplished anything worthy of any hall of fame. I want to change that! I hope by the time you read this I have contributed something to this life worth getting dressed up and talking about (and I’m not talking about a funeral). Third, all seven athletes thanked their parents, specifically for attending every single game or match, even ones that included travel across the country. I have already missed Current Stella’s first two athletic games. Based on their formula for success, she will never achieve athletic dominance and for that I am very sorry. Please, tell your therapist that I take full responsibly for your lack of sports medals, scholarships, and a professional athletic career. Also, remind her that it’s just soccer and that you are female. Oh, and also go over your genetic makeup when it comes to height on your dads side and overall lack of coordination on my side. That should clear it up really quick.
Future Stella, I love you. Current Stella, sorry for being a jerk to you in the car yesterday. You are just a kid and we basically subjected you to 5 hours of no food and no entertainment while strapped into a car seat. That being said, a popular song kept coming on the radio by The Weekend. In the chorus he sings, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you.” I think it’s about cocaine but the words really resonated with me.