I was four when my baby sister was born, and while I don’t remember her birth, I do remember when she got sick shortly after and had to be taken back to the hospital. Or rather I remember my mother coming home with an empty baby carrier.
I was probably four or five when I started preschool. I remember the school, the little green metal bridge we had to cross to reach the classrooms, the three classrooms, the candy that the teacher used to give us when we did something well, I even remember the vaccine clinics that they held. I’d say I remember the closing awards ceremony, but I think that my personal memories have been squashed by the photos I’ve seen of that time.
I have a few other spotty memories from that time. Carrying a scared kitten down the stairs and feeling the pain when the dog barked and the kitten clawed his way to the top of my head. The rush of fear and pain when my brand new penny loafers lost their grip at the top of our wooden staircase. Blood pouring out of my mouth after a stick punctured the roof of my mouth. Lying to my mother about cutting my finger with my sister’s pen knife. Being scared to talk on the phone.
Try as I might I have nothing from before that time. My first years, my first home, all of it is lost to me.
When C was little I always marveled at her amazing memory. She remembered where she left her toys, her sippy cups, my keys. She knew where our house was, and the location of her usual McDonald’s. She could even “read” her favorite books. And yet I knew that none of it would last. Few people have memories from before they were 4.
It was a bit comforting that 4 year-old limit. If I could create a warm comforting home, she’d remember the overall feel of it, but she’d forget the minute details. It gave me a bit of leeway. Say, the right to not always cook a meal from scratch, or not to read bedtime stories every day.
But now she’s 4. And everyday she’s making memories that she might remember.
Will it be her new school? Her daycare? Our trip to the pumpkin patch? Will it be baking pizza with Little L and I? Will it be playing dolls with her sister and her father early one Saturday morning? Will it be our outing to see Princesses on Ice?
There’s no way to know and that raises the ante. I’m fighting the urge to make sure it’s all perfect and special, so that those first memories are happy ones. And at the same time I need to remember to take a deep breath and let it go. Making their childhood happy overall is more important than making a few special memories.
But I’m still curious about what will make the cut. And I’m grateful that with Little L I still have a little leeway.