This past weekend my cousin K and her son came to stay with us. He is 15 months. It was so much fun having another mother in the house and watching her interactions with Samara's slightly older (and more active) cousin. When K was young, she used to spend two weeks a year at my house. This weekend she had so many memories from those weeks--the time my mom sang so badly in the car I yelled at her; the time my mom made us cover our faces with our shirts and run into the grocery store because there was thick, black smoke outside--and I remembered none of it. Of late I have noticed that my memory seems to be worse then my friend's memories. K (the friend, not the cousin) can remember things from our college days of which I have no recollection. My sister who was 7 when our mother died remembers more about here than I do. My father is forever asking me to remember details of trips we all took. It makes me sad to think of all that I have lost in my memory and it makes me think about the new ones I am building with Samara.
She is so important to me, such an integral part of my life story now. R's mother was here the other day and she said when her boys were little, every day was like Christmas morning because they were there. I know what she meant. I get a little twinge of excitement when I wake up in the morning now and I can stare at her precious face all day. I know that I will remember so many details of her life. The way her breath smelled so sweet, the way her little fingers curled around my hair, her sleepy sighs when she is content after a feeding. It makes me sad to know that none of this will be in her memory. As she starts to bond with me and know me and be calmed by my voice, I sometimes am scared that if I fell of the planet tomorrow, she would have no memory of me at all. It seems almost cruel that so much love and attention is given to infants and they have no memory of any of it.
Sometimes when I am rocking her or looking at her squished sleepy face, I think of my own mother and I wonder what her early days of motherhood were like. It makes me so sad to have no memories of it. I only remember bits of the later parts, but I can't remember if there were songs she used to sing to me or books she used to read when I was very young. And yet, I've recently read that the first seven years of a child's life are the most critical to development. They are the years where conscious memories may not be stored, but all of the unconscious memories--the ones we hold with us before we could even process--are made. It makes me feel better that Samara may be calmed well into her 50's by her needs being met now. If I put that extra blanket on her to make sure she is cozy and if I bounce her and rock her when she cries now, she will hopefully trust in the world around her to provide for her. That is the foundation on which solid adults grow. So even if she would not have conscious memories of me should I disappear, the most important kind of tactile, primitive memories are being formed right now as my little girl sleeps. And making sure those memories are positive is the most important job I could ever have.