I have a decent memory. Better at some things – names and faces, not so great at other things – card games and jokes. But I’m missing a lot of my childhood. Don’t worry – nothing Terrible happened – more like lots of little unfortunate things, but I do]]><![CDATA[n't have a ton of memories or nuanced photo images from my childhood, probably because I was moved around a lot before I was 10.
I barely remember kindergarten. Forget first grade, except for one memory of cleaning erasers. Second grade? The Challenger explosion and a very kind teacher, Miss Waldo, who came to my ballet recital. Third grade? More memories for sure. But what comes before school are a handful of very, very sad memories.
One happy one – a birthday, when my parents were still together, and I didn’t want to eat a hot dog. Thinking they would be mad that I wouldn’t eat it, they smiled and told me it was OK, my dad’s arm around my mom’s shoulder. I must have been four, in our house on Jenifer St.
When I was pregnant I was often wracked with anxiety as to what memories I would make for my future child. The sex of my baby unknown, but going by the fond name of Cheeto (thanks to my BFF, who when she looked up what a fetus looked like at the scant weeks pregnant I was when I told her, said, “Oh, it looks like a Cheeto!”). Would Cheeto remember that I planned on reading books to s/he each night? Or would Cheeto remember something small, like an imaginary time I lost my temper and raised my voice? Or would Cheeto only remember a distant parent who preferred reading or watching TV, similar to some of my experiences? What memories would this baby have?
Believe me, those anxieties haven’t left. Miss Red is turning the page on 3, and I daily, yes, daily, wonder what memories she will have. Will they be of the cookies and smoothies she gets from our local coffee shops? Conquering the playground? Or when, last night, frustrated that she left her room for the fifth time to pretend to use the potty and it was 9 p.m., spoke louder to her than I had in her whole life, her little chin held firmly in my hand?
What she remembers matters a great deal to me. It matters not because I think it marks what kind of parent I am, but because I know how it forms her future. It matters because her memories will make her who she is, even if they plant only a small kernel. Her memories matter because I hope she never, ever, has mine.