“The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory.”

20 Jan

As I sat, folding laundry this morning, I stared over at my kids, at Rosalyn transfixed by Wonder Pets, Vivian attempting to help me fold. It occurred to me that despite my having no real memories of that period of my life, my mother still did all the work.

She listened to the screaming. The whining. Did the potty training, tried to get me excited for new foods. She helped me learn to dress myself, learn to talk, learn to read. She wiped away the tears when I fell down, she praised me when I did something new.

And I remember none of it. My girls, will remember little if none of it.

Vivian is finally entering an age where memory will start to be retained. She also has a memory like a steel trap. She still remembers, vividly, dislocating her elbow when she was 2 or so, not even 2 if I remember correctly. It was that scary and painful that she can still speak to in in detail. But now, the mundane will be collected and stored for later, and I find myself wondering just what she’ll remember. Will she remember all 4 of us on the couch, watching a movie? Will she remember my threats to throw her father’s (clean) underwear on her head fondly? Will she remember the perogies she had for lunch?

I can’t control what she remembers, what she keeps for later. But I know how much I mourn not having those memories, and not having someone around to help reinforce what little I have. I don’t know what’s real, and what’s fantasy in many cases, because it only involved my mother and I, and I can’t validate it. So I try hard to make moments that will impress themselves upon her, shared giggles, the warmth of a shared need for contact, a look in the eye together. A bond that maybe even death could never shake free.

Because I worry about death. Not obsessively, not like I once did, but I still worry “What if?” What if I die before they’re old enough. What if I leave them without me, without my words and arms to remind them of how much I loved them, here and now. What if they never hear my voice as adults. What if…

I can’t build a life on what if, but I can prepare for all contingencies. So I do. So we sit and tell stories, we tickle, we love, we appreciate, awake and aware, what we have right now, so that maybe, we won’t forget when we’re older.

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6 Responses to ““The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory.””

  1. Sara January 20, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    I know what you mean, I worry about the same thing. Even obsessively so after losing my aunt in a plane crash a year and a half ago. Alex has a few memories of her, he’d only just turned 4, but this was a woman he’d seen at least once a week every week of his life till then. He remembers more what happened to her, and that she’s in heaven. Anyway, Dylan was only 19 months old. He recognizes her picture only because I’ve shown them to him 1000 times and told him over and over again how much Aunti Lynda loved him. Chances are though, as they grow up and become men, Aunti Lynda will only be someone they lost when they were too little to know her. The freakness of what happened to her has me almost paralized with fear that if something like that happened to me, would the boys even remember me? What would happen to them really? I mean I know all the legalities of it all but emotionally, would they be okay.

    I’d say, you’re mom’s terribly proud of you. And those memories, or fantacies, whichever they fall, is your brain remembering the love. I think, well, I know that if something should happen, God forbid, our kids would always remember that, if not tangible memories of day to day tasks, but that for the moment they were ours, they were loved. Godspeed

  2. Freya January 20, 2008 at 11:18 pm #

    When I worry about if I can provide enough for my daughter, if I’ll ever win her back full-time, I also wonder will she remember all the things from our short bits of time together, especially if something were to happen to me. Then she asks me over the phone if we can go to the firetruck park…that we haven’t been to in over three years. She talks about going there as if we were there yesterday and I hear the happiness in her voice. So, for now, it seems she remembers the good things. And that’s all I can hope for.

  3. marcelarhodus January 21, 2008 at 6:31 am #

    this post hit so on the spot for me… I worry about the same, but also in a little different way. During my “bad mom” moments, those in which my patience is short and my nerves are stressed, and I’m not the loving mom I want to be, I suddenly feel myself stop dead on my tracks for I always wonder if this low moment of her mother is the one she’ll remember. I fear that she will not remember the giggles and the baking together but instead will remember me crying or raising my voice over something stupid.
    And this always makes me breathe in and try to do better, for this moment is the one that she might remember…

    sometimes it seems that you read my thoughts.

  4. anna January 21, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    This is such an interesting post and prompts a lot of thoughts in me which I will scurry off to my own blog and record but before I go, a couple of things. One, your children’s experiences of and need for memory will not be the same as yours. Two, children are not really designed to remember the details of their early lives – their brains are busy figuring other things out – like how to talk, and walk, and get a spoon to their mouths. Three, if you are worried about them not forming the memories, grab a camera and record your daily life. The pictures will help them know when they don’t remember. Four, and most important of all, the details of the moments will be forgotten, but the feeling of being loved that comes from the sitting, the stories, the tickling and the love, that’s what you are going for. They will carry that feeling in their bones forever and won’t need to remember it because it will always be there. Love has no need for memory.

  5. thordora January 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    “Love has no need for memory.”

    that right there, is an awesome line. New header!

  6. juliepippert January 22, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    So lovely and wistful, and true.

    IMHO? They will recall what reinforces their visions of themselves and life in general.

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