On Not Remembering

By Beck

I was busy making breakfasts and school lunches this mornings – and I HATE the time between 7 and 8 am on weekday mornings, really – and I overheard my oldest daughter telling my son how to make bannock.

“You mix together flour, a bit of baking powder and water and some salt,” she was telling him. “You make a rough dough and you cook it in a heavy frying pan with lots of oil.”

The kids had a recent sleepover at my parents’ house, and The Girl helped my dad make supper that night, so I knew where her sudden bannock-making prowess came from. I make a lot of gluten-free frying pan breads, but I don’t make bannock, so much – and bannock around here is most traditionally served with a big peice of fried balogna, should you want to be authentic – and I was charmed to hear her calm voice chanting the ancient recipe. If I hadn’t happened to have been listening, I’d have missed it.

I’m haunted a lot by the idea of missing things as a parent, although I really should relax, I guess – but even though I was certainly present for all of my children’s firsts, I don’t remember them. Maybe if I spent less time with them, important events would be more deeply remembered, but as it is, I don’t remember their first steps, say, aside from knowing that it happened the very day after both The Girl and The Boy’s first birthdays, and that The Baby FINALLY walked at 17 months, to our great relief. And this, this not-remembering, feels rather terrible and at the same time and in equal measures like a great mercy.

I rarely look at my children’s baby photos. There is something harrowingly poignant about the image of their vulnerable baby heads, their little soft reaching baby hands, frozen in time and strangely vanished, and I’m always stricken by the thought that I could have done better, loved more. And so what I’ve carried away instead so far is a series of stories that I tell my kids, little murmured tales – that when The Girl was a baby, we would play at the swings, her face a picture of dubious worry as she’d swing away and relief  as she’d swing back, over and over again, that The Boy was passed from arm to arm in the delivery room, all of the nurses making guesses over how much the hefty little guy weighed.

And now they pass stories down to each other, telling each other what they’ve learned in this world – this is your pinch of salt, this is your handful of flour – and my relief and my blessing must be that I know that in time, all of this will fade to a gentle, half-remembered patina, knowing only that their faces would lift with relief when they saw me, that they always ended up back in my arms again.

Beck blogs at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

18 Responses to On Not Remembering
  1. Stephanie
    March 26, 2009 | 8:46 am

    I feel the same way… this was very well put, Beck!


  2. PastormacsAnn
    March 26, 2009 | 10:27 am

    Gosh Beck, the way your craft a story with words astounds me and make me wanting more.

    Wonderful post. Wonderful.

  3. de
    March 26, 2009 | 11:00 am

    Thank you, it’s a real gift to read thoughts with which I identify but cannot express for myself.

  4. Painted Maypole
    March 26, 2009 | 11:53 am

    darn, they you go, making me cry again

  5. Nicole
    March 26, 2009 | 1:06 pm

    It’s hard, isn’t it? All these things you think you’ll never forget…but then you do.

  6. Jessica
    March 26, 2009 | 1:23 pm

    Breaks my heart…

    I have only one child and I have been a SAHM the whole time, yet…there are things I do forget or recall with faint fuzziness.

    Sometimes I worry I spend too much time blogging about things or scrambling to take a good photo–for the blog–I might just be missing that integral moment I’ll recall only via my own blog. :o(

    Great post…it makes me want to logoff and go observe my child more closely.

  7. Amelia's Crumbs
    March 26, 2009 | 2:11 pm

    Yes. This is exactly how I feel. Though I am not sure I knew that til right now.

    Gorgeous as usual.

  8. slouching mom
    March 26, 2009 | 8:20 pm

    sigh. lovely.

  9. suburbancorrespondent
    March 26, 2009 | 9:26 pm

    I have a love-hate relationship with the photos, also. It’s fun for them to see their littler selves, but sometimes it hurts for me to look.

  10. Heidi
    March 26, 2009 | 10:41 pm

    Great post. I wish I would write down things the kids (my CLB and the neighborhood kids which I practically think are my own some moments) say!

  11. No Mother Earth
    March 27, 2009 | 8:29 am

    I love watching Big C teach things to Little G.

  12. janet
    March 27, 2009 | 11:03 am

    No sleep and still with the poignant writing.

    I think you’re spot-on about the not remembering.

  13. Woman in a window
    March 27, 2009 | 10:23 pm

    If we’re doing a good job as mothers the rest seems to follow. It’s nice to think of your girl teaching your boy of recipes. Mine taught my boy of confidence this week and I just about fainted.

  14. Minnesotamom
    March 27, 2009 | 11:32 pm

    Anja also walked the day after her first birthday. Hm.

    I struggle, wanting to remember everything, but then wanting it to have the gentle patina, where all the roughness and even shininess are gone.

  15. His Girl Amber
    March 28, 2009 | 10:33 pm

    yes! those stories, the ones I can barely remember if they’re true or not anymore, because I can only remember telling them, not living them.

    I keep trying to build memories for my children, but worry that soon I will have just a handful of my own. I barely journaled when the kids were small, confident I could never forget those moments. such a rookie.

  16. Aliki
    March 29, 2009 | 8:25 pm

    Beautiful, beck. I’m intrigued by the bannock, though–and I’m off to google it.

    T. walked at 17 months, too–how worrisome, those days.

  17. Karen MEG
    April 1, 2009 | 7:56 am

    Why is it that most of your posts leave a lump in my throat for all the right reasons?

    It’s funny, the girlie loves making pancakes with me, at least twice a week. And my husband tells me that she will always think of those mornings as one of her special mommy moments. I hope so.

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    April 1, 2012 | 2:03 am

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