Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remembering and Forgetting

"What did grandma look like? I can't remember."

Sofie is beginning to forget. It is the way of early childhood -- some theories hold that around age four, the brain essentially rewires itself, cutting extraneous neurons, streamlining and becoming more efficient, and for most of us, removing most of our memories of the first few years of life. I've known it was going to happen for some time and wondered if we'd be able to tell.

The answer? Yes, we can tell, because she can tell. She's aware that she suddenly can't remember Grandma as well, and it bothers her. She asks for long retellings of the life and death of Grandma, wanting excruciating levels of detail about her last days and what happened after. We curl up in front of the fire and tell the story, which can take twenty minutes to get through with all of her questions.

When we're done, she sits for a moment, then says, "Tell me again."

So I do.

After that version, she wants a new story where Grandma comes back to life in a "magic fire" and never dies aain.

It's perfectly natural, both the forgetting and the trying to reclaim the stories. It's bittersweet, my shining little girl who loves and misses someone she can no longer fully recall.


I want to set some of her memories. I desperately want Phoenix, our oldest cat and her great favorite, to live long enough to be cemented in memory as her first pet. The first pet you remember is a little bit of childhood magic; this will immortalize him in a way. 

I want her to remember Mom so badly because Mom, for all her complications and defenses, was at her best with Sofie. Her relationship with Sofie was simple and straightforward and full of joy. Her loss seems so magnified, somehow, if that disappears.

It's been a while since I've choked up much about Mom. Nearing the two year mark, it's become more bearable, less sharp. I miss her badly sometimes, but life has moved forwards and it's not so deep a pain. I'm surprised, then, to find myself caught up in a fresh wave of grief after Sofie's endless retellings and the beginnings of her forgetfulness. Nature takes it course, both on the elderly and on little girls. Time marches on. We grieve, and hold things dear, and sometimes, we let them go entirely.

In the end, I pulled up a picture from this blog to show Sofie her grandma's face. She took a long look, and a huge smile broke out on her face.  

Oh right, she was thinking, I could tell. That's her. 


1 comment:

Purple Quilter Queen said...

What a great post. Maybe you could make Sofie a memory quilt. Though neither are passed, I made a great quilt with pics of my husband and my daughter from birth til when she was about 5. I collected tons of photos of them with special sayings for each block and grouped the photos together that related to that saying. Cropped and arranged them in excel (that's all I know how to work) and then printed them onto sew-in fabric. Did them all in black and white too. Here's a link to the post I blogged about it. Hope she remembers her Grandma forever! Take care! Jenn


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