Sleet danced on the rooftop last night.
But for the first time in years, it did not waken me. Perhaps time has done its job in healing the wounds of Mother’s death. Still. While no longer linked to winter’s pounding ice, I suppose her December funeral and the crippling central Oklahoma snow storm that followed will live in memory until I die.
It is no small consolation that my memories no longer seem to reach out of a frozen past to startle me into sadness. If there is winter ice sadness today, it will come from being housebound — from a fear of driving on slick roads, enough to keep me from my daughter’s side. Today will be my first absence — if one doesn’t count last weekend’s self-enforced exile, when I left my post as ‘New Mother’s Helper” to create space for my son-in-law’s parents to discover new granddaughter delights on their own — without benefit of any color commentary I would have struggled to contain: “Oh, try this…;” or …. “Oh, no, she doesn’t like that….!” — all those sort of truthful remarks that hinder rather than help.
Yet the glad and sad-for-grandmother truth is that mother and child are weaning themselves away from true need of my help. Yesterday, I mostly carried out a few household chores — laundry and more laundry — while taking time to preserve Reese’s first days with still images.
With much to do, it’s hard to stand still — to allow these first moments near my new grandchild to swaddle me. Yet, how easy it is to sit when Reese is placed in my arms. Then and only then does time cease to matter as I rock away cares and chores and the tick-tock minutes.
I look down at her miniature features to watch the myriad expressions baptize her nose, eyes and Gerber cheeks — accompanied by a symphony of sounds rising out of her slightly parted lips. My eyes water at mystery. I wonder about what she is thinking — what memories she is even now this very minute forming that can never be shared for lack of words and images and maturity to convey them.
Words about a baby’s memory from a book I’m reading intersect with everyday life today. They come from a science fiction novel — Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead — which I would never have read, but for urging from a close friend. I am grateful for his suggestion and for several lines of Card’s thoughts which have invited deeper contemplations of life, like this:
A human child loses almost all the memories of the first years of its life, and its long-term memories only take root in the second or third year of life; everything before that is lost, so that the child cannot remember the beginning of life.
What thoughts dance at the top of my grandchild’s mind, especially when she flails her arms about startled? Whatever they are, they cause me to respond with a soothing word. With all the love that I am, I cuddle her close and console her with soft pats on her back.
As Reese dozed yesterday, time melted away to startle me awake with my own first memory. What it is I may one day share. But what interests me most today is not mine, but yours. So I ask: What is your first memory, the first of many frozen in time? When was it born?