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The Shipwreck Rose: Darndest Things

Thu, 02/01/2024 - 09:36

It was in Canada that I was lured into Facebook. The year was 2009 and we had moved to a small town called Shelburne, up among the fir trees, the lobsters, the granite mines, and the turkey vultures. In rural Nova Scotia in 2009, if you wanted the essential news of the day — whether the snow was deep enough to close the preschool, what time the skating carnival began at the ice arena — you had to be on Facebook. There was a weekly newspaper in town that ostensibly reported on local current events, but it was extremely modest, just one reporter working forlornly out of a storefront, glancing up at the plate glass as pickup trucks with gun racks drove past in the slush of Water Street. The bulletin board at Sobeys supermarket offered the occasional item of interest, too — people selling bags of carrots in deer-hunting season or the announcement of a charity sale of scented candles — but, really, you needed Facebook or you would fall dangerously out of the loop and be unable to properly perform your mom duties.

Fifteen years later, and I’m still on Facebook. As a middle-aged mom, I do fit the stereotype. I have an Instagram, too, but I hardly look at Instagram;. It appears we middle-aged moms will be the last living generation of humans to communicate more naturally in words than in images.

Anyway, this is how Facebook became a repository for family memories, a virtual shoebox. Photos, video clips, and funny stories from family life, since I first became a parent, are stored in Facebook. Sometimes, when life is a drag and I’m feeling blue because the world is going to hell swiftly in a handbasket, I will go on Facebook to watch my son, age 6, tap dancing in a porkpie hat, or wearing a ball-skirted Barbie doll dress — the homemade kind that grannies used to crochet — on his head as a hat when he was 2. Priceless.

This week, I went back to Facebook to be reminded of the humorous things my children said when they were little, to give myself a laugh. They do say the darndest things.

My Facebook record of my kids’ pronouncements began as a plain log of their first words and sentences. (I realize this couldn’t possibly have been of any actual interest to anyone but me; I was still a social-media beginner. We all were.) On April 24, 2009, for example, Nettie was 20 months old and was calling quarters “horsey money” because quarters were what you dropped into the slot of the mechanical pony ride at Sobeys supermarket.

Or: In the autumn of  2011, Teddy was newly arrived from Ethiopia and just learning to talk, and I documented on Facebook his first words:



car, car, car, car!,

truck, truck, truck, TRUCK!,

sock, shoes, cat, up, out, pants, help, apple, jacket, cow, and Santa.

By Nov. 15, Teddy had produced two sentences: “Hi, dad” and “Hot shoes.” I had put his little waterproof boots on the wood stove to dry after a walk in the snow.

By December 2011, Teddy had finally learned to say “no” and his mischievous older sister had taught him to say “bad boy.”

This makes me laugh. Precious moments! Another favorite slice of archival footage preserved on Facebook is the precious moment when Teddy, toddling around the house with a miniature video camera that we used before we got iPhones, made a 30-second mini-film featuring my lower legs, our kitchen floor, and his sister’s rear end as she bent over to fake-fart toward the lens. She was 4.

On March 29, 2012, according to Facebook, Teddy took one of Nettie’s Magic Markers and she, snarling and crawling on hands and knees in pursuit of her brother, announced: “I am the cheetah, and Teddy is the cantaloupe who is my prey!”

Teddy had a lot to say about Santa over the years. Jan. 4, 2013: Whenever it snows, and it snows a lot, Teddy says, “Santa comin’?” Nov. 9, 2013: The family prepares to drive down the shore to the tiny, frostbit, cod-eating village of Ingomar for an early-season Christmas bazaar — the Christmas season started much earlier in the calendar year, in Canada — and I try to get the children into clothes and into the car. Teddy, running in his underwear back and forth in front of the wood stove in the living room, is resolutely refusing to put on pants. I tell him, “Get dressed! Get your shoes on! We’re going to see Santa!”

Teddy, in his underpants: “We goin’ to the North Pole?”

Me: “No, not the North Pole. Just Ingomar. But you can’t go if you don’t put your clothes on.”

Him: “I can go nakey” — naked — “to see Santa.”

Me: “No you cannot go see Santa if you’re nakey.”

Him: “Maybe Santa be nakey, too?”

Me: “No, Santa is not coming nakey to Ingomar. Put your clothes on.”

In 2015, we moved home from Nova Scotia to East Hampton, and the scenery, as recorded for posterity on Facebook, shifted.

Oct. 25, 2015: It is a Sunday morning, 6:55 a.m. I am attempting to sleep in, in my creaky antique bed under the colonial wood-beam rafters, when I am awoken by an excited son: “Mom. Mom? Mom!” Teddy says, standing by the bedside. “One of his antlers was big? It had three points? But the other antler was straight! It only had one! He wanted to eat the apple out of my hand, but I was scared! So I put the apple by his feet! He’s eating the apple right now!”

Nettie’s remarks — those I thought worthy of recording on social media — were generally very funny, in my opinion. Here’s one, from when she was 9. March 30, 2017: She is doing math homework, an exercise in which she has to compose a word problem, solved for missing numbers. “Donald Trump had 455 golden toilets and Melania Trump had 404,” she writes. “How many do they have together?”

July 13, 2016: Nettie, in her Harry Potter phase, hears the voice of Leonard Cohen for the first time when I am frying blowfish and listening to the song “So Long, Marianne,” with harmonic backing vocals behind Cohen on the chorus. She says, “It sounds as if Alan Rickman were singing with all the Dementors behind him.”

Oct. 9, 2016: The three of us — Teddy, Nettie, and I — are in the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, pausing at the cash register to pay for our grilled cheese lunch. On the newspaper shelf beside the register, the kids catch sight of the cover of The Daily News. The hugely bold-faced headline is a letter “P” and a letter “Y” with a string of kitty-cats’ faces in-between.

“Wait, what does that say?” says Nettie.

Teddy: “It’s cats!”

Nettie: “No, no. I know what it really says! I know what it says! Oh, that’s bad! Oooohhh, that’s bad! It’s so inappropriate.”

Me: “Nettie Rattray! Don’t you dare tell your brother!”

Nettie: “But I will!”

She leans in, and stage-whispers in his ear: ‘Grab them by the poopy!”

Tempus fugit. They grow too quickly and will soon be out of the house and gone. By 2019, Nettie was reading George Orwell. On April 4, I was making dinner again — Facebook doesn’t record what was on the menu — while she was at the table on the sun porch reading “Animal Farm” and I overheard her say, “Communism is bullshit.” She was 11.

One final darndest thing. March 11, 2020, I tell the kids, “I feel so bad that you are living through this age of Trump and coronavirus!”

Nettie: “What do you mean? You are also living through this age.”

Me: “Sure, but it’s not the same. I’ve already lived through lots of different ages.”

Nettie: “Like the Stone Age. And the Jazz Age.”

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