This was first published in the Pasadena Star News on December 25, 2004.
“My kids remember the bad times, not the good ones,” a friend told me as she paid for several Christmas presents for her two grown children. Our offspring are about the same age, twenty-something’s that have left the nest. I don’t know if she was a bad mom or if she has ungrateful kids. Perhaps when they have children of their own they will be more charitable toward her.
My own children surely have a complaint or two about how her father and I raised them but, due to a tradition we instituted 22 years ago, my family has recorded “favorite moments” every year for every member of our family. The favorite memory book has become one of our most cherished possessions and is a must-take item in case of a fire.
Even after the kids grew up and went out on their own I still ask them to list their favorite moments of the year gone by. When they come home for the holidays, we enjoy looking at the book and seeing how their definition of “favorite” has changed.
The kid’s favorite moments from childhood are both hilarious and poignant. When my son was six-years-old, one of his favorite moments was when he learned to ride his bike. A few years later, his thirteen-year-old sister spent one hundred dollars on new clothes at the mall, in one hour - a heavenly hour of excess that she will always remember.
One year my son and daughter listed getting out of fourth grade and ninth grade, respectively, as a favorite moment. The soon-to-be fifth grader left behind a mean teacher and the soon-to-be freshman was accepted to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).
Some moments were favorite for the whole family: the day we got our dog Zoe, the day we got a new refrigerator with an ice dispenser in the door, the day we sold our compact car and bought a van. Some included our favorite sports teams: when the Lakers won back-to-back championships and the Dodgers won the World Series.
On the page opposite the list is a family picture, mostly snapshots with an occasional formal family portrait. As we flip through the pages we can see how fast the kids grew while their father and I grew grayer.
I still get teased about the year I made matching mother/daughter and father/son shirts out of bright fabric in tropical colors. When I look at that picture as the years go by, I see it is testimony to the love my family has for me that they would not only wear the shirts (and dress) in the first place, but that they would allow their picture to be taken while wearing them.
Our family added a new member in 2001, a daughter-in-law who has adopted our family tradition and adds her favorite moments to the list. My reticent and very private son listed meeting and marrying his new wife as one of the best moments of that year. He drew a tiny heart next to his entry, a tender declaration of love to accent his moment.
Of all our family traditions, this one has stuck and will continue on as long as the family does. Our chronicle of happy moments will stand against the inevitable sorrows and struggles. We still remember unhappy times, but choose to preserve the happy ones in our family lore.