My mom and her younger sister, Sue, were here this week. We had fun seeing La Crosse, eating, and playing cards. They agreed to teach me how to play Hearts (the card came), and that hour or so of playing demonstrated something that I rarely think about.
My mom and Sue were little girls together. I mean, duh, right? Of course they were. But because I have known them as adults my entire life, it is so easy to forget that they lived together in a house with their parents--and they were little girls. And they played together. And they fought together. They weren't always Mom and my cousins' mom.
At one point during the game, Mom passed three terrible cards to Sue--as it happened, the same exact terrible cards that Sue had passed to her the previous round. Mom passed them over, face down, with a neutral face. No big whoop. As soon as Sue turned them over, she made a groan and started to laugh as she realized what Mom had done. And that is when my mom laughed harder than I have seen her laugh in I don't know how long. I mean, she Laughed. And she couldn't stop. It made me so happy to see it--I love to watch her laugh, partly because it's not easy to get a full belly laugh out of her.
And that was the moment I fully realized it. That laugh has a history. It is the laugh of a little girl who pulled a trick on her even littler sister. For more than 50 years, that laugh has been there. It went with them to the lake each summer and to their grandparents' farm.
Mom has known Sue longer than she has known me, my brother, and even my dad. They go back. In my vanity, and the vanity of the younger generation more broadly I guess, I rather casually blow off the first 20-odd years of my mom's life as being insignificant--a bit of trivia, a few stories, that kind of thing. But to her, those memories and relationships are as vivid and important as my memories growing up with my parents and brother.
It's particularly odd of me, given my research is so focused on the importance of family history. But it's easier to see the generational connection amongst other people's families, maybe. My mom, though---she's just my mom. The person who exists so that I could exist.
So I had a reminder this week that I need to change my perspective when I look at my mom and her sisters. I hope it's not something I'll forget in my self-interested focus.