There are the memories I have that I can’t help having. They’ve stuck in my brain, though I’d sooner forget many of them: Being watched by my neighbor (who sat in a tree) as I peed surreptitiously next to my wading pool. Vying with a classmate for the lead role of a sickly giraffe in the school play with the line, “By dose is all stubbed up,” (only to really get sick and lose the part). Getting dumped on a dark highway by the straight-edge, skate-punk boy to whom I lost my virginity (“Remember Melissa,” he had the audacity to say, “there are alternatives to water towers and razor blades.”)
And then there are the moments that I consciously commit to memory. The scenes I rehearse in my mind until they are locked in the folds of my gray matter. They capture something about a person, a time, an experience that is defining. They are the moments worth writing about, worth airing on an empty day. They have the power to evoke a smile or a tear when it has felt impossible to conjure either.
I do this with all people who are dear to me. I do this with Sophia.
When Sophia was first born, Kevin and I played Dreamland, a compilation of world lullabies, over and over. We all found it soothing. Poignant. The first song off the album is Naima, written by West African singer Angelique Kidjo for her daughter. It is achingly beautiful—I wish I could play it here—it captures the gratitude, relief, and deep pain I felt in those first weeks after Sophie was born. After I healed, when I finally could, I picked Sophia up and danced her around the room to that song, tears streaming down my face. Now, hearing the music unlocks the memory. It is almost too much to bear, so I rarely turn it on. A few notes and I am right back in my living room, twirling across the industrial beige carpet, Sophia light and warm in my arms, her head against my shoulder and the overwhelming joy that I had my baby at last.
Two years later, a second, musical memory is forever etched in my mind. Sophia and I take a Music Together, a parent-child class that is founded upon the belief that all children are musical and all children can achieve basic musical competence. We thoroughly enjoy it. The teacher exudes a particular calm that has a powerful effect on Sophie; she is exuberant (yet well behaved) from the minute we walk in the room. There is one song, Bound for Glory that Sophia routinely requests. It is an old spiritual, made new by a rhythmic chugging, evocative of a train. The teacher distributes bands of jingle bells to the kids and Sophie dons them like bracelets all the way up to her armpits. As soon as she hears the music, she is up, chugging along the perimeter of the room with a look of determination and no awareness of what anyone else is doing. There is a complete lack of self-consciousness, total immersion in the music. The teacher starts the class in place, eventually following Sophia who is already off on her invisible track, bound for glory. I love watching her so focused and full of energy; I am reluctant to start moving around the room myself. The other day, I had to conceal my tears as I followed in her path, hoping a little of that confidence might rub off onto me.
So much of my past is fuzzy; I know the memories I have are each salient for a reason, but few are positive. These memories, these special times with Sophia, I will not lose. I have guaranteed their survival by writing about them.
This, I will remember.