I once read that there is only so much knowledge that a brain can retain. Scientists say that, essentially, you forget certain things you learned to make space for new information. What’s worse, we don’t really have a say in what our memories hold onto.
It makes me wonder: what will I remember about these days?
Recently, I was watching my 2-year-old daughter read a book. As she contentedly flipped through the pages, I studied her face. I wondered how long I will be able to remember the way her hair softly curls around and away from her ears, you know, that baby curl that goes away after the first haircut.
I found myself trying to memorize the way her chubby cheeks frame her mouth, and how her incredibly long eyelashes look against her perfect skin. She looked up at me and laughed, and I wondered if I would remember the way her little laugh sounds.
I know I have already forgotten moments that I told myself not to. I’m positive my son and I spent mornings crawling around the house and afternoons dancing in the rain, and I would pause to look at him and think, “Remember this. Never, ever forget this wonderful feeling.”
But I have.
A few months ago, my husband played a video of my little monster jabbering away when he had just learned to talk. My eyes instantly welled up. I had forgotten that high-pitched voice that I had fallen in love with so many years ago.
If I don’t remember those precious moments, what will I remember?
Will I recall the daily frustrations? The days when it took everything in me not to scream? The moments that I looked at my husband and said, “If you don’t take over, I’m going to run away”?
Will my memory store the countless hours of staring at the clock, wondering when bedtime would finally come? Will I be able to replay the up-all-nights and 2 a.m. trips to the emergency room?
I think that only the big things will stick: the time I lost my son in a department store, the way my daughter insisted on hours upon hours of naked time, the nights they were born.
While that’s all well and good, what I really want to hang onto are the everyday moments that perfectly capture the innocence of their youth. I hate that I’ll probably forget what my daughter sounds like when she whispers, “I luh you, Momma.” I rue the day that I can’t remember my son dressing up like Batman just to go to the grocery store.
I want to commit those things to memory the way I have with the unimportant stuff, like people’s addresses or which episode of “Daniel Tiger” is my daughter’s favorite. I can still remember my best friend from first grade’s phone number, but I don’t know what my son looked like the first time he tried real food. I don’t care how old my kids were when they took their first steps, but I bet I’ll be able to call that number to mind faster than I’ll be able to picture what my daughter’s face looked like the first time she saw Santa.
I fear their little faces are slipping from my memory to make room for play date appointments and vaccination records. I can’t freeze time, and I can’t spend our lives with a camera in my hand. I can only hope that I can look back on these days and know that we laughed, we cried and we loved more than anyone ever could, even if I can’t remember it.