Recently I’ve been thinking about memory and its fallibility. Yesterday I looked through some notes I had made when my eldest was younger and realised how many things I had forgotten. Like the day when he became upset and clingy as my husband was getting ready for work and when my husband turned one way to go to work and I turned with our toddler in the other direction to go to nursery, my son cried “Daddy! Daddy!” until his voice echoed off the surrounding buildings. Or how my son’s first word besides “Mummy” and “Daddy” was “apple” – which at first he always pronounced with a big buildup of “ah-ah-ah-ah-apple”.
And I thought how my youngest son, now nearly seven months old, won’t remember anything from these days of his life. It will be a couple of years before he’ll start to remember anything, and when he does he’ll be like all of us, at the mercy of memory and only able to retain certain things. Whole chunks of all of our lives are lived and then forgotten. And it led me to think, what’s the point?
But I think these forgotten moments are not lost forever. My baby’s first couple of years may be devoid of defined memories, but we know that the first years of a child’s life are very important. We know how neglect at this stage in life can be harmful, its impact felt for the rest of the person’s life. These early moments join together to create a sense of something, like “I am safe” and “I am loved.” They lay the fertile groundwork for a brain that will learn, a body that will grow, and a heart that will love.
I think it is the same as we move through later life. All the memories that fade still leave their mark on me. They bind me to the ones I love. They create a backdrop so the memories that do stand out have a context. They provide the canvas of a happy, love-filled life, so the precious memories I have tell more of a story.