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She Remembers

December 28th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  3 Comments

Our family lives all over the country: the crusty disaster called California; the sweet, creamy filling of America, the sun-blasted bierhall that is Key West, where I grew up. Not only that, but much of my family seems to have fallen into various forms of financial or physical infirmity since my children have been born. So visits to New York to see the kids have been perhaps more rare than they would have otherwise.

What that all really means is, our kids have traveled. Not that they are getting much better at flying, but they’ve been plenty of places. But through all their travels so far, there’s been one consistent problem: they don’t (and won’t) remember any of it. In just the year that I’ve been splaying their lives out on this blog, they’ve had some beautiful days: camping near Yosemite, flying on a seaplane with me while I was working in the Dry Tortugas, not getting eaten alive by ticks in Missouri. But even for the older child, Dalia, who is nearly five, the memories seem run behind a fogbank almost as soon as the days end.

Until now. When we got off the plane in Key West a week ago, the first thing we walked past on the tarmac was the big green DeHavilland Otter seaplane that we had flown on in early summer. “I remember that!” Dalia shouted happily, as if her lack of memories had been bothering her as well. “I remember all of it!”

It may be easier to remember Key West, where stepping off a plane is a full-body sensory overload: hot sun, humid air, salt smell. But whatever the cause, I was happy about this.

This is, of course, complete narcissism. We want them to remember these trips, or even good weekends at home, because we take care to make them enjoyable experiences, and the idea that the kids won’t even remember this to thank us for it or to be gladdened by the memories is tough on the ego. This is foolish, because they will not only not thank us, but probably find some way to resent us for whatever they do remember.

Worse, there may be a downside to Dalia’s remembering of her life as it unfolds from here. Memories are heavy things, and they seem to only add to the leaden jumble and confusion of life in general. The younger boy, the two-year-old, is still living in a world where each day is just a day, where every night you press the reset button and begin anew. Life is just a mood. He may not remember (or, alas, appreciate) the deep snow day in Colorado. But he also has a sweetly light step through life: just as soon as he stopped continually coughing hard enough to vomit a few days ago, all memory of his pneumonia vanished. He didn’t mope about how much time he lost on this vacation, he didn’t rue a thing.

We should all be so lucky.


  1. Clark Kent's Lunchbox says:

    December 28th, 2010at 11:17 am(#)

    I completely understand the thought behind this. It’s surprising what kids remember and how long they hold onto it.

  2. john cave osborne says:

    December 28th, 2010at 4:58 pm(#)

    brilliant. i’m seeing my 3 year olds slowly but surely come into the world where memory is a factor.

    nowhere near like your 5yo, i’m certain, but stringing events together that happened days or even weeks ago.

    so interesting and true w/ regard to what we trade when we’re able to remember. beautifully written sentiments here…

  3. Carly says:

    December 28th, 2010at 8:49 pm(#)

    Nonlinear, piecemeal memories motivate us to fill the blanks somehow, no? Sense memories, especially of place, seem the most powerful, from one well-traveled former child to yours: I still remember the four-year-old-sized space just behind the front seats in my father’s Ford truck, the stuffed gunney-sack I napped on, the unspooling casette tapes of 70s alt-country bands, and the smell of dry grass and thistle on the two-lane highways between California and Montana. But ask me what I did each day in college and I would be hard pressed to tell you!

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