I remember being held in my mother’s arms while she sang “Silent Night” to me in a darkened room.
I remember lying in my crib, waving at the shadows on the room’s walls made by cars driving past our house at night.
I remember looking through a telescope at what was supposed to be something very special in the night sky. All I saw was the moon. Or maybe a star. I was underwhelmed. It still looked pretty small to me.
These are some of my earliest memories. I don’t know what they say about me.
My daughter (now 32) has an incredible memory. She vividly recalls being a passenger (age 4) in the car with my husband and his friends who were driving (“quite fast!”) from Chicago to the DC temple. She still smiles as she recounts the sirens suddenly blaring behind them and her dad’s friend getting a ticket from a policeman.
I remember lots of things about my children’s childhoods. My mother must have recalled her early years of parenting, too. I used to roll my eyes when she would mention details about Sheridan School or the neighbor Mrs. Favret or Reverend What’s-His-Name from the church we attended. I can’t remember any of that. Maybe my sisters can, but even they grumped about Mom’s “living so much in the past.”
Now I fear my children – all grown – roll their eyes whenever I bring up bits from their single digit days. Does P cringe when I mention his youthful favorite video (Disney’s Robin Hood) as though he might still like to watch it? Does B recoil when I tell the clever thing she said when she was 5? (“If you don’t let me be where the rest of the people are, I’ll die! And not only that, I’ll never resurrect!”) And does C shiver when I slip and call him “Googy,” a nickname he had as an infant?
It would be one thing if I recalled these tender moments just during waking hours and in the privacy of our family circle. However, I often still (at age 60) find myself reliving raising toddlers in my dreams. C is the one who shows up most, my “baby.” He’s a stand-in, a symbol of my creative output or ambitions. For example, a dream that comes up with some frequency is of potty training failures (which was never a problem in their real lives). (And if they ever read that last part they will surely roll their eyes!) In these dreams, C will wander up to me as an adored tyke – but covered with pooh. If C represents my “creative productivity,” the pooh is, well, my assessment of how those efforts are going. Insecure? You betcha.
Two of my three children are parents now. This only reinforces my impulse to re-experience their tiny selves. That lavish love that comes with newborns is rekindled towards my offspring as I watch them hold their own babies in their arms. The space/time continuum becomes wildly warped. I like the perspective aging gives me to see the wholeness of these people I love. I’m not saying all those years were sunny. They were not. I remember those parts, too.
This isn’t living in the past. This is living beyond time, and the panorama feels holy.
So let them roll their eyes. Let them groan or be embarrassed. I’m claiming all of those memories boldly and proudly.
And now I’m going to settle back and imagine what it felt like to be held in my mother’s arms while she sang “Silent Night” to me.