One afternoon, a a few months before my mother died of colon cancer, I crawled into her bed to be with her and my aunt where they were lying, my 8-year-old daughter playing between them. I pulled out my phone to record the two of them talking.
“What’s one thing you remember from your upbringing?” I asked. The two sisters looked at each other and started laughing. Amidst the laughter, they told of the time my mother came home drunk one night that the curfew of her usual good manners years had passed, and that in her overly drunk state she needed my aunt’s help to get in. at home without waking their parents and other siblings. The story is light and fun, and one I’ve heard before, but I hung up every word as if the secret of life itself was out of my sight. In this moment of laughter and easily forgetfulness there was a sick killer lying in bed with us. For three years this recording was untouched on my phone, an anchor I could call when and when it was ready.
In January, 10 months into residence and a year post-partum from the birth of my second child, I decided to hire a nutritionist. I need help. I love sugar, which sends my A1C levels flowing to almost the level before diabetes. I also like to wake up when the house is quiet to treat myself to all the podcasts, movies, and TV series I can’t get into in my day. Loving twins don’t love me, and I know that feeling tired and foggy most mornings is the exact opposite of treating myself.
One of the first things Peta-Gaye Williams, my new nutritionist, instructed me to do was schedule meals and bedtime on my smartphone. I know about chicken and egg sleep and nutrition: My poor sleep habits influence my food choices, and my food choices contribute to my sleep habits. “Setting alarms for food and sleep is like the appointments you keep to yourself,” Williams told me. I started following these guidelines, a bit skeptical because I hadn’t yet become good at self-accountability. Scrolling through my apps to find the alarm tone I would use, I found the file of my mother and aunt telling the story of the drunken night out. This recording remained untouched on my phone for three years, and I felt a drop when I realized I could link it to my schedule in exchange for an alarm as my sign for breakfast. , lunch, dinner, and bedtime.
Two months into this practice, I still haven’t kept an eye on this recording. I would work at my desk, or change a diaper, or in the bathroom when I heard my mother and aunt laughing from some corner of the house. I found my phone by following their voices, listening to the fire, and love gushing from their mouths as the story unfolded. As soon as I find the phone, I feel it subtly shaking my palm as they talk, I go to the fridge and eat, or lie down on the bed with my completely untouched first hour — an hour that was obviously not funny, as I could see I was asleep. a few minutes later I put my head on the pillow.
When the breakfast alarm went off, the story began: “And you called me and I had to let you in…” my mother’s aunt told me as I sat at the kitchen table and ate my spinach and eggs. At lunch time, they got to the point in the story where my mother told my aunt to stick a finger in her throat, because she was too drunk to do it herself. I heard them giggle as I ate lots of vegetables and a piece of fish. When I got my dinner alarm, my mom and aunt were arguing about the details of what had happened. “No, Mommy and Dad never knew.” “Yes, they do.” And by the time my nighttime alarm went off to call me to crawl into bed, the story was gone and my mom and aunt were arguing over whether my daughter needed water. This recording is now like a song whose lyrics I have memorized, keeping me going through my day.