Last year, as I turned 30, I set my intentions for the coming third decade. This decade was going to be all about the ‘tough stuff’, the bringing up of family, the increasing of professional reach, the ‘more work and less play’ part of life.
Having established such, I quickly took upon myself to become a mother and even as I write this I am delighted to be ma to my lovely 6 week baby boy. What I initially planned on writing about for the birthday retrospect was my metamorphosis into a mother. If I was keenly aware of the new life within me during the 9 months of pregnancy, I was even more amazed at how my entire world started to revolve around the little being on his arrival.
I never considered myself the kind of mom who discussed the colour and consistency of her baby’s poo, and lucky for all my readers I am still not that kind of mom, and yet the last few weeks have seen some lively debates and discussions on the diaper changing schedule and the merits of the various brands thereof.
Yet, this birthday retrospect is not about my baby boy’s daily routine, but the fact that even though the first few years of my child’s life are salient part of my life, I am keenly aware that he is not going to have any memory of these days.
Over the past days my parents have been reminiscing about my own babyhood and how I too bathed and burped like my ‘mini-me’. My own reactions remind me of the movies ‘the notebook’ and ’50 first dates’ where the Alzheimer struck heroine smiles in that ‘nice to meet you. But have we met before?’ polite smile. They say that Alzheimers may very well be even a worse disease than cancer, and yet let’s face it we all have alzheimers about the first few years of our lives.
I googled the phenomenon which they call ‘childhood amnesia’ and there are a number of theories about why it happens. Freud thinks that the first few years we have such scandalous and socially unacceptable thoughts that the higher centres just suppress the entire first couple of years out of sheer mortification. The other theories say that the memory parts of our brain have just not matured till then.
Well, whatever the reason, the fact remains that even though I turn 31 tomorrow, I have absolutely no memory of a few of those years. These years held some very important moments and frankly I am surprised I don’t remember any of it. One would imagine that the first time I spoke, or the first time I took my first stumbling steps would have made some kind of indelible mark on my psych, but no, nothing.
I tried hard to remember my first memory of – well my first memory of anything actually. I could manage just a hotchpotch of a few snapshots of my life, there is a memory of small porcelain mice someone had gifted me, a large blue bunny rabbit soft toy, an ice cream van… I am not sure if these are actual memories or projections from the various photographs of my childhood.
So there it was, some vague, unfinished recollections of ‘maybe’s’ and ‘might have’s’ which are the sum total of what I think could be the first four years of my life; and even after that the years four to ten are hazy at best.
In the movie Inside-out, the little girls childhood imaginary friend is finally lost in the ‘memory dump’ a place where memories are lost forever. The imaginary friend which is made of candyfloss and was a treasured friend during the girls childhood and with whom she had plans of travelling to the moon on a cart fades away into oblivion, in what is the movies most heart wrenching scene. I saw the movie during the final stages of my pregnancy and I was struck by the immense truth of the moment back then. I realised then that my unborn child was going to not remember the immense and large amounts of love that was soon going to be showered on him. The tender caresses, the nightly hugs, the morning massage routine and the bathing ritual would at best be like listening to folk lore in the later years when we spoke to him about them. Much like it was for me now.
And so we video record, and we take pictures and I write about my baby’s first few days, hoping to share them with him some day. Yet, I am aware that he will not remember, just like I do not.
Just because I do not remember does not mean it didn’t happen. These ‘non memories’ of my first smile, the crawls and walks and gurgling laughs, the amazed sightings of my parents, the taste of my mashed weaning food, the smell of the jasmine flower they tucked in my hair, all these happened.
As I turn 31 I am filled with a sense of loss at not being able to remember my ‘non memories’ , so much wonder and joy and immense love that were part of the first few years of my life. But, I plan to fill my ‘non memories’ with memories from my sons childhood.
And that’s how life goes on. Here’s to the next decade of ‘more work and less play’ , and yet play I shall so that my child has a happy set of ‘non memories’ and I can relive mine.