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.