I look in on my kids right before heading off to my own bed. I tuck in their blankets and kiss their foreheads. They squirm under my touch and babble their dreams to me. I stare at their peaceful faces, amazed at their beauty. I look at my sons soft features, seeing exactly where they have changed in recent months. The mouth is a little wider and the chin a little stiffer. He’s growing and I can see it clearly.
My daughter, too, has grown. Her legs stretch a little farther down the length of the bed. I see a small foot poking out over the side. I’m reminded of when she was just a small ball of baby gooeyness. Now, she is a big girl and reminds me often.
As I walk quietly back to my room, I can’t stop the memories from flooding my head. They fill every nook and cranny. They engulf me. I almost stagger under their weight. For a minute I wallow in it. I relish the picture show behind my eyes. I see it almost as a slide projection that spans from birth until now. And then I wonder how I will live without every single ones of these memories.
How do I tuck away these memories, so they don’t remind me daily of what is disappearing. So they don’t leave me craving more but instead whisper to me on dark nights, remind me of why I am here, linger indistinctly in the recesses, wanting more of what is to come. Memories are not for living within but for reminding me of why I live at all.
I can’t expect to memorize everything. Already things are starting to fade. I have to stretch to recall an exact date, a moment of time, some marvel that eludes me. I take pictures, hundreds of pictures, just hoping it will stick, make the story clearer. How can they just grow up, leave me behind with nothing. So I guard my heart because I can’t save my memories.
They are getting older, inevitably, new memories will fix themselves tightly, momentarily, and somewhere along the way I will forget other bits and pieces. I will forget the exact day that my son chose to walk, in front of an audience, proud. I will forget the first time my daughter sang, sweetly garbling the words but expressively rendering them nonetheless. These things will be faint traces across my brain, hazy, but forming the basis of my unconditional and overwhelming love for them.