jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Forgetting to Remember

I thought of this thing today, but then it left my mind. It left my mind amidst the tumble of things I’m supposed to be doing, the school auction, the art show, even the writing I’m trying to do. I forgot what I wanted to write because I was thinking about something I wanted to write.

Life is like that, especially these days.


Minutes away from WWIII
January 2014

But I think the thing I was thinking about had something to do with making a mark and remembering this time.

Which has become my refrain, remember this time.

I’ve always tried to record the people and places and thoughts that mattered, suss out the meaning, the why and how, the hidden metaphor that will unlock the secret. Mostly it was about my family, my childhood, my parents, my siblings, the lessons I’d learned from watching them and loving them.

And then for awhile I didn’t write much. I mean, I typed into a computer for work, blah, blah, blah Minoan Architecture, “I recommend Johny Do-Good for acceptance to Your Super University without reservation…” and so on. But I didn’t write about things that really mattered to me. In some ways even my art found this holding pattern that felt pretty safe, exploration within a limited system of marks and symbols.

Then the babies came and it was this tsunami: feelings, relationships, reflections, flashbacks, metaphors begetting metaphors. I was running up the hill from the mile-high wave, then running back down to gather what I could from the ocean floor, then back up the hill. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

And sometime last year I realized I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten every last bit of everything.What with the running up and down the hill, being chased by the wave, chasing the wave, all in the care of these crazy-beautiful, ever-demanding beings, I had no idea how I got there, up the hill and down again.

I couldn’t remember how I breastfed two babies while watching an eighteen-month-old and still taking care of the home. Did my Mom come? Did I run every day? Did I walk? How did I pack everything in our home in order for us to move while caring for those babies and the toddler?

Then I got pregnant? Was that me? Who gets pregnant when they have three kids under the age of three? Someone who’s about to have four kids in thirty-six months, that’s who.

And then the water got faster and the hill got higher. Right? That’s what I hear, anyway. But I don’t know. Because I don’t remember most of it.

But what I know, is this: right now, this time in my forgettable life, this is important. I have files filled with notes for teaching Art History, so many digital files in fact that my computer complains that that my start-up disc is full every time I try to run two programs at once. And yet, what I think is really important, for me, and maybe even for these four beings that my husband and I made, is right now.


April 2014

I looked at Cabot’s face today as she whined, and for once I responded with pure love rather than the annoyance that only a 24/7 whiner can elicit. I picked her up and kissed her belly, the belly that is now literally almost bigger than my belly. Then I lowered her into a hug and put my face in her hair, which even dirty, is this smooth delicious sheet of perfumed gold. It’s heaven on that head, I tell you. I was transported by that little head. What is this moment? How many mothers just sniffed their child’s heads and held their warm, purring bodies? Just now. Now.

And I realized that although teaching and being an artist was important, and being a daughter, and certainly a friend (who would I be without my friends?!) and of course, a wife (!), being a mother to these four rapscallions  is just absolutely, positively the large important thing that I’ve got going right now. Even though I don’t remember it. And it’s generally crappy and dirty. And they might not remember it. And what they remember might make a therapist go hmmm.

At one point I thought I started blogging so I could tell people I was still alive, that I still had a voice, even though on some days it seemed that no one was listening. Maybe I did it so I could prove there was worth here, in these lost days of wiping butts, blowing noses and doing seat belts and laundry, laundry, laundry. Plus there was the need for court-approved proof that I took them to farms and libraries and swim lessons; there’s that. And of course, there’s just the joy found in the act of writing, there’s just me enjoying painting these things with words.

But above all, I think it must be that these little beings are growing into adults who will do things, become presidents or cabinet-makers, marry or partner or become hoarders in the Pine Barrens (it’s a family thing). They will teach someone or raise someone, certainly love someone. And the garbage that is their now, the kernel of that yet unwritten future, that is the thing I wanted to remember.

baby A, baby B
by Jennifer Groeber

I want to save whatever I can for them: their crumbling baby teeth, the old family Bible, the dog-eared black and white photographs of their grandparents as babies, the tiny preemie baby hats that wouldn’t fit a doll.

It started here. You began here. This is important.


Bruce Groeber, Pop-pop
c. 1942

16 comments on “Forgetting to Remember

  1. Eli Pacheco
    April 16, 2014

    Recently, we sports writers converged on a pro football player and asked him to detail the final pivotal play of a crucial game. We wanted every detail. He shrugged. He didn’t have it for us. It just … happened.

    I think it’s this way in parenthood. So much … happens. It just does, and we don’t remember it all. How could we? Why would we? we’d be as overloaded as your computer if we did. So some of us try to post a bit about it, and maybe this post or that will jog our memory to something else that happened, or might have happened.

    And those moments when the kids are still on our laps and we can kiss the top of that head? It all kind of slows down. Even if we forget to remember.

    • jgroeber
      April 25, 2014

      Is it ironic or apropos that this whole page of comments escaped me?! And such an awesome comment, too! Yes, yes, I think it is exactly like that. Csikszentmihalyi calls it flow, right? We’re just in the moment, going, going, going. I do so treasure those lovely moments when time almost stops. (Totally thought of your blog last night as I watched my kids chasing soccer balls up and down the field on their “Midgees” team. Chasing cats is right!)

  2. Matt
    April 16, 2014

    Yes. This is important.

    You’re doing God’s work. On two fronts.

    1. You’re doing the most-important job there is at home.

    2. You’re reminding parents dealing with self-identity issues that they’re still relevant. That they’re still “them.”

    That matters.

    • jgroeber
      April 25, 2014

      Thank you for this bit of uplift. (Can’t believe I missed this whole page of comments…) It’s hard to remember that it’s important, right? Why is it so hard to remember?

      • Matt
        April 25, 2014

        Because we’re self-centered and we tend to value all of the things we admire about people rather than the things people admire about us.

        (That’s what me talking out of my ass looks like. But I think it’s still true.)

  3. kellylmckenzie
    April 16, 2014

    Oh I am so very glad we have found each other. Although you are not exactly over my backyard fence I feel as if you are. It’s as if we are nattering over tea or perhaps a pinot noir as I read your posts. Just perfect. Yes, the smell of their hair, the touch of their soft cheeks and those filthy feet – oh those feet that grease up the tub … Hahaha! Thank you for transporting me right back to those days. Love the woodcut of baby A, baby B. Love.

    • jgroeber
      April 25, 2014

      Exactly! How I wish you actually were just over my back fence! I need the Mamas who have gone there before me. I could show you rashes or you could make me a cup of tea (or really awesome mixed drinks) while the kids play in the shared yard…
      And I my husband just pointed out the empty tub in our bathroom this morning where all four simultaneously bathed last night. There’s not enough Clorox in the world to get that tub clean.

  4. evelyneholingue
    April 17, 2014

    Right now. You are right about remembering that. Like you I have four children. Close in age, although not as close. Only one teenager living at home now. Sometimes, like you now, when I think back I wonder how I lived and did everything I did. When I see a young woman with four kids she reminds me of a younger version of me and I am also ready to tell her “Right Now.”
    It is hard to be aware of the moment when we take care of young children, although we cannot be more in the present than with young children.
    You are lucky to have this blog. I kept notebooks, photos, boxes of school artwork. And zillions of memories of right now moments.
    Enjoy your life. There is no rehearsal, just right now moments.

    • jgroeber
      April 25, 2014

      Yes, yes! You are so right. We can’t be more in the moment, but also there’s no way to hold onto the moment. And there is no rehearsal. So true! I do so hope this blog takes the place of the books I should be keeping and the photo albums I keep making but never ordering on Snapfish. I’ve promised myself to make a bound book of this blog when a year has passed. Or I guess that should be four books. Thank you so much for reading and commenting and getting it.

  5. Kelly
    April 17, 2014

    I came to my real live computer to leave you a comment… because I always read on my phone with a sleeping, milk-drunk toddler on my arm, I rarely comment. But you… this post got me good, lady.

    • jgroeber
      April 20, 2014

      Ah, the sleeping, milk-drunk toddler! I am with you. I have lost so many comments on my iphone and iminipad (is that what you call it?!) I am so glad you understood it. I worried that it might be unclear. Which is exactly what this time is. Unclear. 😉

  6. drawandshoot
    April 18, 2014

    That’s just beautiful, Jen!

    • jgroeber
      April 20, 2014

      Ah, my photos!! Please ignore my Hipstamatic drive-by photos. (I never want a gifted photographer thinking too deeply about my messy pics…)
      But I’m glad you liked the post. 😉

      • drawandshoot
        April 22, 2014

        I love Hipstamatic drive-by photos. I’d make them too if I had a cell phone! : )

  7. Margie S
    April 24, 2014

    You would have to be a woman of steel to ignore that face! Yes, one of your most important legacies is rolled up into the lives of those four little people. While at times thankless, mind – numbing, exhausting and distracting, the rewards are endless and infinite. As far as the day to day, you just get it done – sometimes consciously and others , in a fugue like state.

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      That’s exactly the dichotomy- slogging through the every day minutia while embracing the rewards of those sweet little heads, those sticky little hands, the snuggles. I think I write this blog in part to remember to remember. (You are so amazing for reading all these, by the way!)

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2014 by in Memory, Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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