This article written by Tia Levings was originally published as “Echoes of Childhood: Remembering the Little Quotes of Our Little Folks” on The Antsy Butterfly.
This year, the holiday prep was quieter at my house and very likely at yours as well. The pandemic meant smaller gatherings if they happened at all. Shopping was virtual and solitary.
One by one, the phone calls came in –– adult kids letting us know they were unable to come home this year, or choosing, for safety concerns, to stay home on purpose. These were conversations heavy with emotion and also understanding.
Two of my adult children are married sailors; a third is adulting in a town an hour away, part of a different “pandemic bubble.” My husband’s three adult kids have families of their own; two in other countries. We have one still at home, but he’s the “strong, silent sixteen-year-old type.”
We were able to drag him out with us to get the tree, but that was it. The rest of the planning, decorating, and minimal baking was up to me and the hubs. Quiet, sweet, but filled with echoes of much busier, louder years.
It’s been a season to go with the flow. And I get it now, why the Ghost of Christmas Past haunted Scrooge. My spirits are named Sentiment and Nostalgia: glitter-encrusted paper-and-glue crafts that practically jump out of our storage bins to trigger snippets of memories I thought I’d forgotten.
The ghosts uncover words hanging in the air between then and now, echoes of childhoods now complete.
“I hear the hockerdotter, Mommy!” (Helicopter)
“Put the tree up in the lidding room!”
“Hey, Mom! Make sure you hang my stocking by the chimney with care, like it says to in the book!”
“Ooo, colored lights this year! Mom, you are my hero-baby!” (I used to call her my lady-baby)
They’re memories of the funny things my kids said when they were little. I hear them as I unpack eighteen ornaments for each child –– one for each year they were home. I listen to them as I cut bells, trees, and snowmen out of dough, baking cookies that will ship in care packages instead of sitting out for Santa.
I’m the old Mom now, laughing to myself over jokes no one else can hear.
When I scroll through my phone, the photos start when they’re older. I got my first smartphone in 2009, right after my divorce. I compulsively photographed their ages and stages with my new gadget, often sharing them online before thinking that decision through. I had a camera in my hand almost at all times now! I took pictures of everything.
Thanks to cloud back-up, I have thousands of images of my kids from the last ten years. In scrapbooks, I have hundreds more of their early years. And what I’ve learned about photography, videography, and memory-keeping is that nothing captures a moment like remembering their words.
It’s their little voices that take me back in time the most. The funny interpretations of words and situations, their age-appropriate perception of the world from their perspective become transport to years ago.
To read their words is to hear their voices. It’s to feel like I’m there again, beside them in time. I can smell the cookies baking, feel the chill of the day as we drag the blue spruce inside, and she says, “Put the tree up in the lidding room!” (I think she was a pre-teen before I told her she’d been saying living room wrong all this time. I couldn’t bear to let it be a thing of the past.)
What I found over the years is that just like we love to share cute photos of our kids, parents also love to share the funny things their children said.
My sister will call. “Guess what Abby said today?”
“Oh, what now?” I laugh with anticipation. My niece is known in the family for her bold and hilarious declarations.
“I am a 6-year-old bottle of awesomesauce! I’m going to wow them with my awesomeness. Look out! The Abster is here!”
My sister and I laugh until our stomachs hurt. Abby delivered that with flaming red hair and a cape. She’s a pint-sized super-hero eager for an audience.
“You gotta write that down!” I say.
That led my friends and me to make a book we call Little Quotes by Little Folks. We published it at the end of 2020, at a time when everyone could use a good laugh.
“You gotta write that down.”
We knew what our kids said touched our hearts and made us laugh in ways that held up over time. We could share these snips and stories without infringing our child’s privacy the way sharing a photo online can do. And in book format, we could gather these funny quotes on a larger scale and collaborate with other parents.
Paired with the incredible talents of illustrator Jake Olson, our project’s result was a collection of hilarious and heart-warming quotes and drawings that capture the essence of childhood. Jake’s illustrations are sweet and straightforward, portraying the literal way kids state something that is just off-kilter enough to tickle our funny bone.
The bookmaking process can be detailed and time involved. But working on this book never got old. Every time Jake finished a new batch of drawings, or we had to proof a copy for the hundredth time, we cracked up with the giggles. As we say in our tagline, “Kids are funny! They should be in a book!” Turning the pages makes us laugh every time.
And we unanimously agreed: Little Quotes by Little Folks must include space for parents to record keepsake memories of their own. As sure as the world keeps turning, even in 2020, kids are going to keep being funny! You gotta write that down. Look Inside the Book.
Time passes, kids grow up, and the nest empties. Writing down the funny things our kids say captures moments just like our photos do, and sometimes, like the ghosts of Christmas past reveal, even better.