Emotion—-love, especially-—is my memory’s saving grace; its medicine; the reason I have any sort of long-term relationship with my past. Like a precious photograph that freezes the details of an otherwise forgettable scene, I have random memories that are framed in love and hung on the walls of my soul.
When I close my eyes and visualize my very first childhood recollection, I find myself as a three-year-old climbing into bed with my parents on what must have been a Saturday morning in our rambler home in Carmichael, CA. Their bedroom window was open, a fresh summer breeze bringing the curtains to life. I was in the middle, my dad propped on his elbow to my left, my mom smiling at my right and my one-year-old brother crawling all over us. For some reason, that moment was recorded—-perhaps it was the first time infancy’s innocent blanket of oblivion was lifted to reveal me, Marie, the daughter of parents who loved me dearly. It was the first time I consciously recognized and appreciated their love for me.
Jump ahead a few years and I can remember getting home from school to find my mom sitting on the living room floor in a sea of mismatched socks. She asked me to help her find the matches and then taught me how to bundle them together as she asked me about my day at school. I remember how she had one leg tucked into her body and the other stretched out. I remember the tired look in her eyes, recognizing for a fleeting moment all she did for our family. I remember the fun I had tossing the matched bundles into the laundry basket. I remember the one-on-one. I remember feeling loved. I was about five years old.
I can fuzzily recall bedtime scenes from my childhood-—the cool wet on my forehead from my dad’s kiss after he’d tuck me in and say, “sweet dreams.” It happened thousands of times and yet it’s a blur. But there is one night I savor in detail; a night when I felt cherished and admired because we talked about what I was most passionate about as a girl: gymnastics. He asked me what I thought about before going to sleep. I told him I visualized myself doing each of my gymnastics routines as I drifted off, how I mentally practiced so intensely that sometimes my mind understood what a move would feel like before my body did. I could tell he found me fascinating and that it made him proud to have a daughter so passionate about something. I remember the angle of my bed, the tight safety of my sheets, exactly where my dad sat on the edge of my mattress, making the sheets even tighter. I remember him proudly calling for my mom:
“You hear that, Honey? She runs through each of her routines in her mind before she goes to sleep.”
That conversation took place about 17 years ago, but I can still hear his proud voice in my ear, saying those sweet words.
I’m not one to remember these types of things—crawling into bed, folding socks, a bedtime conversation. But somehow I vividly remember these scenes in detail, and that’s because I felt especially loved in those simple, simple moments.
And here I am, the mother of two, and my three-year-old daughter could seal her first memory any minute now. Are the odds of it being a loving memory in her favor? Will her mind capture me in an impatient, stressed, or distracted moment? There’s a better chance of that than I’d like to admit. Still, I have hope that she’ll remember a simple bedtime story, my fingers combing through her hair, an afternoon nap together. Whatever it is she holds on to, I hope, like me, she can one day say, "I remember love."
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