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?
And yet isn’t it odd that though we can’t remember them, those early years are so important to us.
Reese is precious. What a gift.
Life itself it precious, especially when delivered in the form of grandchildren. And who knows but that in some way, we do recall those early soothing voices and pats from our first months of life in ways beyond words and images.
Frederick Buechner has called these years bereft of memory as life “once below a time.” I prefer to think of them otherwise, as “once above a time.” Either way works I suppose, since beyond the hands of time.
What a beautiful photo. My first thought was, “Isn’t she PINK?!”
As for memories – I have two that are very, very early, but I don’t know which is older.
I wrote about one, the experience of watching from my high chair while mom captured an errant mouse, in William Morris and the Naked Toaster.
The other is of having my favorite lullaby sung to me. I’ve not been able to find a good video on youtube. There are at least three tunes, and the one Mom sang was the Lennon Sisters’ version. But there’s a nice one here. I didn’t realize until last year it was a poem by Tennyson.
And what a beautiful lullaby! Thank you for sharing this with me — it was my first time to hear it. I’m wondering, even as I write, whether I can find a CD of lullaby’s for baby Reese to listen to — one that has “yours” on it?
I had to go back for a quick look at your mouse memory — I like your Mom’s handling of it. But I will need to go back for a closer look to see how it affected you — was it traumatic to watch this unfold? Is that why the incident stuck to your memory? Or just unusual?
Your lullaby was a wonderful way to begin my day. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, not traumatic at all. Just vibrant – probably because of the sunshine, colors and the fun of a mouse.
If you go to youtube and search for “sweet and low lullaby” you’ll find the Lennon Sisters’ version, which was my mom’s melody, and a lovely video of someone reciting the poem as poem at the seaside.
Linda, So many first memories are traumatic — a sort of crash landing into time. Glad your landing was smooth.
The more I hear Tennyson’s words, the more I’m taken by them. I guess today is my day to post poetry about babes — for the reading pleasure of others.
The Princess: Sweet and Low
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.”
Janell, can you please email me? I wanted to email you but I couldn’t find the address on your blog.