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Write Down Everything!

By Mandy Fernandez

As English professor Brother Tom Price told Erma Bombeck “You can write,” I want to encourage everyone I know and even those I don’t know or will never meet to “Write down everything!” That’s my three words of advice.

Write down everything. Write down those phrases that stick in your head. Write down the funny conversations you overhear or participate in. Write down the ridiculous things your children say when they are little. Write down what you are thankful for to remind you of the good in the world. Write down what is upsetting you or keeping you awake at night. Write down the memorable moments with your pets, grandparents and even random strangers at the grocery store.

Last year during the pandemic I began to compile all these little things I wrote down over the years, in particular the memories and conversations I had with my children. I began doing this in late summer. By the fall it occurred to me that I had enough to create memory books for my children (ages 13 and 8 at the time) for Christmas presents.

My two daughters loved these gifts. They enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing photos of themselves when they were little and reading crazy phrases they said. Some conversations they remembered; others they forgot. We laughed and passed the books around for an hour.

Here’s an example of a memory that I put in my oldest daughter, Vivian’s book. This is a conversation we had on August 18, 2017:

Vivian: “Mommy, I remember the first time I learned and said the P-word.”

Me: (my heart racing) “What P-word are you talking about? What boys have or what girls have?”

My mind immediately went into the body parts, and I panicked wondering what kid had said too much to my child at school.

Vivian looked at me weird: “No, I meant (then she whispered), ‘piss off.’ Umm, what word are you talking about?”

Me: (feeling relieved and guilty) “Umm, nothing. Don’t worry about it!” I smile.

Vivian: “Well anyway, I said that word in the car line and Mrs. Melissa told me I shouldn’t say that!”

Me: “That’s right. Don’t have a potty mouth,” I replied to her.

And don’t have a filthy mind like your mama, I suppose either.

To this day, this little conversation I had the foresight to write down makes us both laugh. I’m so glad I wrote it down and included the date so I could remember what age Vivian was (age 9) when we shared this.

Vivian is about to turn 14 years old. When I walk in her room lately, I catch her writing down things about her day — things that happen at school. She won’t call it a diary or a journal. Those aren’t cool terms to use or admit in middle school. But she’s writing down memories that she wants to remember.

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I stress to my kids to write down and remember the funny and sentimental things that occur so they can enjoy them later.

As I watch my teenager become more independent and pull away from me, I write down my feelings on how painful and beautiful this is for me. I write down more than funny memories, but the hard ones, too. A few days ago, I wrote this poem reflecting on her being a teenager and becoming more of an individual…

A Mother’s Beautiful, Painful Release

Watching you grow is a continual struggle, a dance—
A beautiful, painful release I repeat

You are the massive catch I reel in with excitement and sweat
Too big for me though, I must toss you back into the gulf

You are that perfect all-occasion dress that I wear for years
Then one day you don’t fit anymore, outgrowing me

You are the scrumptious chocolate torte drizzling with sauce
Removed by the waiter before I can savor the last bite

You are my favorite song playing on the radio
Cut off by the announcer before the last lyric is sung

You are that injured bird in the nest I nursed and healed
Now ready to spread those wings and fly on your own

You are my greatest creation, a vibrant masterpiece
That I must donate to another art lover enamored with you

Oh, the joys and agony overflow as I watch you grow
Time-soldiers march past our doorstep enticing you away each year

So, Erma fans, fellow moms, writers and friends, let me say it again: Write. Down. Everything! Write down what breaks your heart as well as toilet humor and dinner table fodder. You won’t regret writing about your life and passing it along to your children, family and friends.

— Mandy Fernandez

Mandy Fernandez is an award-winning essayist and short story writer. She is the author of Kazoo Makes the Team, the children’s book about the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ baseball team mascot, Kazoo. She is featured in the Florida Writers Association and Pensacola Moms Collective. Her work has appeared in numerous publications throughout the Gulf Coast. Her winning essay is in the book, Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter. (Author photo credit: Evelyn Laws Portrait Art)

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