The memory of a young child is a funny thing. My earliest childhood “memory” was of climbing Mount Rushmore. Which, given that climbing that particular historic landmark is not allowed, would make my memory a load of crap. However, we did take a family vacation to Mount Rushmore when I was two, and I probably had a vivid recollection of climbing on a rock in the parking lot at Pizza Hut or something like that.
The next memory that springs to mind is the day my brother was born; I was two and half years old. I very clearly recall the nurse holding him up to the window for me to see. Then I promptly lost interest, and the memory that is more pronounced in my mind is playing on the waiting room slide after the brief glimpse of my newborn brother. (Apparently I proceeded to go home, stand on my night table and shout, “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!” but I don’t actually remember that part.)
I have clear and specific memories of each of my parents from my early years. When I was young, my mom stayed home with us, and my fondest memories are simply of being home with her. I remember a game my mom and I used to play daily when I was a toddler; she would lay on her back, I would lay on her tummy, and she’d roll side to side, chanting, “And then we roll this way…and then we roll that way!” I adored that game, along with our other favorite activity of recording us singing into the old cassette player. My prevailing reflections are that I felt comfortable and cherished with my mother.
When I remember my dad during those early years, what stands out in my mind is how much fun we had. He was so compliant with our silly games, and so eager to indulge us. We used to tie him up with my hair ribbons, put him in the basement closet, and then gasp in shock when he was somehow able to break free and find us. I can see flashes of him chasing us around the basement while we screamed and laughed.
When I was a bit older and had learned how to be a pest, I would wander into my parents’ bathroom every morning and watch my Dad shave. I would wait until he poured a capful of Scope into his mouth, and then I would tug his pants and say, “Daddy! Daddy! I need you!” After he’d spit out the mouthwash he’d shake his fist at me in mock frustration and say, “You know I can’t talk when I’m gargling!” and I would laugh and laugh. Every single day. What a hero.
Thinking back on these blurry first memories has caused me to wonder, “What will my girls remember about the first few years of their lives?” Particularly my toddler, as her earliest memories haven’t yet been solidified like my six year old’s have.
- Will she remember the nights of rocking before bed, when I sang our special lullabies?
- Will she remember how I kissed her toes and tummy each time I changed her diaper, making her squeal and giggle?
- Will she remember our delight every time she learned a new animal sound to show us?
- Will she remember her belly laughs and requests for “more” every time I sniffed her toes and exclaimed, “P.U., stinky feet!”
Of course there are moments I hope they will both forget; incidents such as saying the “F-word” when we missed the schoolbus, or zipping a tiny tummy in a hurried effort to get a coat on, or the famous “New Toddler Bed Standoff of 2008”.
And I know that there are very few memories of the first five years that will actually stand the test of time. But I guess I hope that more than remembered snapshots of specific moments, they will retain the emotional imprint of their early years. I would like to think that someday, many years from now when she is grown, my daughter will hear the special song I used to sing to her at night, and though she can’t explain why, she will suddenly feel safe, peaceful, and loved.