Motherhood, Musings, Olive

June 2, 2014

From Under A Tree

I have spent many of my days as a mother trying – mostly unsuccessfully- to imprint moments on my memory forever.

Holding Olive that first night in the hospital, she lay tiny and snuggled up in the crook of my arm. Every time a nurse came in I was afraid they would take her away from me and make her sleep in the bassinet so I’d pretend to be sleeping. Every time they left I would open my eyes again and stare at her. That dark hair, those plooshy lips. I was trying to memorize everything from that moment, clawing it tight to my chest so I could keep it forever.

It was everything.

How many times have I done that in the days, weeks, and months since? How many times have I looked at a balled fist or gurgling laugh or specific expression and vowed fiercely to never forget it?

How many times have I forgotten?

Today was different. Today I looked at her, head bobbing as she fell asleep in her high chair and I shook so hard with laughter that I could barely steady the video I was taking for Adam, and I wanted her to remember.

I want Olive to remember June 2, 2014. The day that she helped me hang laundry outside. The day that we wandered around the block while she picked “flowers” (dandelions) from people’s lawns and ran to hand them to me over and over until my pockets were full and her chubby palms were stained yellow.

This was the day that we walked to the grocery store, where she careened around with a tiny shopping cart filled to the brim with avocados and tomatoes, spinach and black beans. I want her to remember how the old couple pronounced her Just darling!, the teen girls adored her, and how she waved an exaggerated “Hiyyyyy” to every single person she saw.

I want her to remember how many times I hugged her close to me, how I looked dancing like a fool in the kitchen just to see her laugh. I want her to remember napping in the sun-dappled shade of the tree in the backyard, as Gus lay snoring a few feet away.

There was so much to this perfect, perfectly ordinary day that kept sitting with me for a few moments after the moment had passed.

I want her to remember everything, but I know that she won’t. I mean, she can’t.

My first memories don’t date back to much earlier than 6 I don’t think. The early years are just a haze. So all of today – the shopping and the strangers; when she made Adam’s day by pointing to a picture of a bearded underwear model and saying “Papa!”, and the way she fell asleep with shorts on over her pajamas –  all of it just…washes away.

Her screwing up her nose and yelling “No meem!” as I tried to apply sunscreen.

Her giant grin when I gave her one of the coconut milk popsicles I made.

The look, the look she gave me when I told her she was going to have to get down from dinner if she kept putting her feet on the kitchen table. She didn’t break eye contact for even a second as she raised her foot and touched it ever so daintily to the table’s edge. (Sometimes she is all Adam, this one.)

What do I do with all of this, all of these things that when put together make up the thing that was today?

What do I do with the fragments of this ordinary day that leave me sitting here with no evidence that any of it even happened, except for a few loads of clean folded laundry and fresh groceries?

I know she won’t remember so I’m doing it for her. I’ll witness this day.

I’m writing down the way she looked after she woke up from her nap, how she flung her arms around my neck. How she kept repeating our Realtor’s name after hearing me talking to him on the phone “Hiyyy Durtis. Hiyyy Durtis, hiyy”

I will remember all of this for her –  how she skipped her nap and then fell asleep in her supper, how she thought the leaves of the tree were butterflies, how she has all of a sudden stopped calling my brother Liam, Um, and started calling him Miam. Just like I did when I was her age.

June 2, June 2. My favourite ordinary day.

I’m clutching the last five minutes of it close to my chest and vowing  – fiercely – to remember.

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  • Reply plf1990 June 2, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    She won’t remember individual memories, but she will remember within her very cells, the way she was loved and the attachments she formed.

    I had a really abusive childhood, and remember almost none of what happened to me before I was 5. But that doesn’t seen to matter – my therapist believes that the body memories, recording inside us before we record verbal memories like you and I remember things now, are more important because they are unbelievably painful. I can always tell when I’ve triggered a very very young memory, because it usually knocks the wind out of me and it’s completely overwhelming – much more so than my specific abuse memories as an older child.

    I don’t have kids and never want them, but I read your blog because it is so soothing. You are creating feels of love and safety and security and happiness for Olive, and she will grow with them as part of her so intrinsically. You’re doing a good job 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer June 3, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    You have such a way with words! I have often felt the same way & intended to have journals & memory books filled with just such memories to share with my children once they were older. I’ve mostly fallen short of those goals as my 4 year old has an incomplete baby book & my 10 month old is obviously in the same boat. But I take photos to capture days like this with the goal of being able to be the storyteller later on. This post is beautiful, and perfect, and ordinary. I love it! (Oh & my earliest memories are at age 3 when my brother was born. She may remember sooner than you think!)

  • Reply mymootpoint June 3, 2014 at 1:48 AM

    Is it not enough that it am so sleep deprived (19 wk old with reflux) that I cried at extreme makeover home edition (Tye, stop shouting, you have a microphone!) yesterday, that you have to make me cry again with your lovely, lovely writing. Putting into words the things we all wish we could put into words. Fist shake to you (but also a hug). X

  • Reply Abbie June 3, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    As I rock my son to sleep, I sit here with tears. H

    • Reply Abbie June 3, 2014 at 7:01 AM

      How beautiful..

  • Reply Whitney June 3, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    That’s really lovely. Now I want to remember your day too!

    Funny: I was not allowed to sleep in the hospital bed while holding my baby (b/c they were afraid she’d fall out) so every time they came in if I had nodded off I pretended I had been awake the whole time so they wouldn’t take her from me…

  • Reply Sam Pereira June 3, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Gosh, so true. I try to remember everything too. Such lovely, funny, wonderful memories. Even the hard days.

  • Reply Bethany June 3, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    My favorite post of yours so far!

  • Reply Pattimiller June 3, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    That was beautiful, I have tears… Happy..happy…tears..

  • Reply Sasha June 3, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    Oh this about ripped my heart out!! So touching and so true!

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