I am sitting here watching Georgia busy playing. She pushed herself in her walker over to the entry where she found my purse on a low shelf. She is pulling items out, one by one, and examining each thing like it is the most extraordinary thing that she has ever seen. Its moments like this when you realize how life is just one big discovery for a baby. Everything is new.
She has just found a chapstick. She twisted it around and was a bit surprised when the top half, the cover, came off in her hand. She peered inside the top and then stuck her finger in there. Then she looked in the bottom and saw that there was something inside. She has taken her finger and poked it in, pulled her finger out to examine it, and now has stuck her finger in her mouth, to taste whatever she found. She smacks her lips, turns the tube around one more time to see all the writing. Bangs it on the tray a few times and then checks back inside the tube to see if anything falls out. She puts the whole tube in her mouth once, pulls it out, and looks at it very closely again. Finally, she tosses it on the floor and reaches in my bag for another item.
You try to put yourself in the place of a baby. Imagine finding a bag full of fascinating objects, things that you had never seen in your entire life. You had no idea what purpose they serve. I try to imagine how exciting it would be to touch these things and wonder about them.
After having a baby around for awhile, you stop noticing how every day is something new. But moments like this are magic, when it is quiet enough and calm enough that I can appreciate and even participate a bit in her giant Discovery of Life. Its really fuzzy and just barely flitting around the edges of my memory, but if I try hard enough, I can almost remember that feeling. Being little and being mesmerized by something New.
I remember being about 8 months old and being left alone on the floor near the cupboards at my Grandfather's house, the cupboards without the old-fashioned latches, the ones that had a button you had to press to pop the latch. They were shiny metal and worn smooth from years of use. They made a nice 'thunk' sound when the latch popped. I remember sitting there and being totally absorbed, touching the latch and trying to open it myself.
It makes me think about other memories from when I was really really young, and how they seem so disconnected. But maybe that is what a baby's mind is like- totally absorbed in one object or task and then an adult comes and scoops you up, and suddenly you find yourself somewhere else entirely, being handed some other object, and suddenly you are completely absorbed in this new item that has appeared. Sometimes when I see items that my mom had when I was a baby, I have strangly strong reactions. I glimpse a blanket in a stack on the shelf and I remember laying on the blanket and examining it, the way the yarn ties curl up and fuzz at the corner of each of the patchworks. I see a picture hanging at the end of the hall and I feel the ridges of its frame, bumping under my nails. I put Georgia in her pyjamas and, as I stand in my childhood bedroom with the pale green carpetting, I can feel my feet sweating against the rubbery bottoms of my footy pyjamas, the blue ones with the white plastic feet that matched my sister's red ones. I wander through the toy section trying to find Christmas presents for the girls, and the chemical smell of all the plastic reminds me of the gritty feel of the yellow plastic on the play shopping cart that I received for Christmas when I was two.
Its funny how these memories flash into my head, surprising me and at the same time feeling worn smooth, as if they had been touched every day for years. It makes my stomach tense up with excitement, thinking of all the other memories that must be lingering around the corner, just waiting for the right signal to jump out and say, 'Here I am.'
It makes me look at the girls every day and think, 'Will they remember this? How about this?' Which events from today are the ones that they will turn over and over again in their head as they fall to sleep, the ones that will come back to them when they are grown up and remembering. As I paste the pictures in their photo albums, I wonder if the photos will jog memories and they will remember how that day smelled. Or how the cake batter felt sticky on their faces. Or how the cold air pinched the insides of their noses.
And what I often ask myself is, why do I spend so much time printing out photos and carefully pasting them in the albums? Why is it so important to me to try and pin down all these moments, especially when I am constantly being impressed by how intense my childhood memories come back to me? Maybe its just the randomness of memory that worries me. It feels like I have no control over what disappears and what sticks. Maybe that is what the albums are for. Like this, I remember the girls' childhood exactly as I want to. I choose the pictures. I write the captions. The universe doesn't get to decide which day gets lost and which moment will haunt me.
Will it work?