Now things are really going to start to matter. My son, three years old and plowing headstrong to four, is old enough to start remembering.
I’m not talking about remembering that time we to the park last week, or how I told him he could have a few jelly beans after naptime (even though I hoped he would forget). I’m talking real memories. First memories. The kind of memories that the girl you’ve gone on four or five dates with starts to question you about. “What’s your earliest childhood memory?” she asks, swirling the wine in her glass, trying to find out who you are beneath the scruffy beard and date night sweater.
I’ve started wondering which moment it is going to be. Will it be today, falling off his bike when an older kid ran into him, crying as all the parents rushed over to help? How the dirt covered his pants and I held him as he shuddered, and walked beside him as he bravely biked back towards his dad? Will it be building sandcastles on the beach with his grandfather, watching imagination turn into creation? Or maybe it will be one of the simple moments throughout the day, the ones I have already forgotten. Sitting on the couch reading books, splashing in the bath, eating cereal with daddy in the morning.
Mine is laying my bed in our first house, warm sunlight flowing through the window as I woke up. That, or having the chicken pox. I prefer to think it was the first.
“Why don’t I remember when I was a baby?” he asked me today after listening to me tell tales about his earliest days. “Nobody remembers when they are a baby,” I assured him. “But mommies do. We will always remember.”
The words rang untrue as I said them. There are no guarantees that I will be able to keep those promises we make to never forget, to remember until the day I die. I have watched both my grandmothers struggle to remember, watched as the vaults that housed lifetimes of memories were slowly robbed.
I don’t know which moment will be the one that stay with him, or if it has already passed. Even if, by chance, it’s one of the good ones, I have no guarantee how long it will last, how long either of us will get to keep it, before, like the sandcastles he built with his grandfather, time will come to reclaim them.
Just in case, I think I will tell him “I love you” a few extra times tomorrow. You never know what will stick.