Forgetting

I remember being about 8 or 10 years old and mentioning an Agatha Christie book I was reading to my mom. When she said she couldn’t remember if she’d read that one or not, I was astounded. How could you not know whether or not you’d read a book? Of course now I can’t remember the title of a book a read four weeks ago. But at the time I probably retained details of every book I’d ever read, and that someone else didn’t was shocking.

For the longest time when they were younger, Hallie and Travis seemed to remember EVERYTHING! I’d be amazed at the stuff they’d come up with, thinking that there was no way they could remember what outfit someone was wearing at someone’s second birthday party. But they’d always be right!

My theory is that there was relatively little information in their furiously growing brains, so there was room to retain everything. Now their brains are filling up with so many other things that some stuff is getting squeezed out. I’m finding it bittersweet to refer to things that were once such important parts of their lives only to discover that either they don’t remember them or don’t show any sense for how important those things once were to them.

It’s funny to think about how those things they don’t consciously remember might or might not affect them. I think Travis, who was 3.5 when we moved, barely remembers our Hobhouse Circle house. And Hallie, who was nearing 6, will probably end up with just vague impressions of it. When the kids and I looked at pictures from our SJI trip of four years ago, it was clear that much of it was just pictures for them. Or there’d be a incredulous burst of, “I remember that!” when they’d dig up a memory they didn’t know was there. But all those experiences must still count in there somewhere, even just as building blocks for things that follow.

It’s bittersweet to see whole sections of the library that we once visited almost daily now totally irrelevant. Or to refer to a friend from one of their preschool classes or someone we played with frequently and be met with a blank stare. Recently I quoted a regular line from “Sid the Science Kid,” a show Hallie and Travis once both loved to watch, and it was clear neither of them had any idea what I was talking about. And none of us now remember the names of some stuffed animals who were once part of our daily play and routine.

I’m doing my own forgetting of things right along with the kids. There were details of Hallie’s daily schedule or aspects of Hallie’s first year at Conn that were so crisp at the time, probably in part because they were new. By the time Travis got to that same point, I was juggling Hallie’s schedule and years of experiences and also probably paying less attention because things were now familiar and comfortable. I’d have been hard-pressed to tell you what special he’d be in in a given week, where with Hallie I almost always knew.

The first round of things always seems to stick better for me than what follows. I can remember the color and name of each of the kids’ first Salvation Army sports teams, but (after 6 or more teams, different each year, for each of them) not most of the ones they’ve played on since. And heaven help me for keeping their preferences straight! They are both pretty good eaters, but their choices and quirks are different. I’m constantly asking, “Now which of you doesn’t like sandwich rounds and wants regular bread?” Or “Who wants mayo and who wants hummus?” I’ll honor their preferences within reason, but often they get what they get b/c it’s too hard to do it differently. What do people with 3 or 4 kid do? Probably a lot less catering to different choices. I think maybe I’ll just adopt that approach!

I have mixed feelings about how all this blogging will play into our memories of these years. Until I post about something, there’s unlimited potential to capture what I want to write about. But once I set it down, I’m capturing just a slice of that topic or incident. I’m always aware, even as I’m writing, how much I’m not putting down. And when I go for weeks or months without posting, there’s stuff that just never gets caught. While it will be wonderful to have all this to look back, and it will certainly fill in things that would otherwise have been lost, it’s also sure to limit and probably reframe how we recall certain event. I guess I just have to hope I’ve done them better justice than our memories will!

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