Where Do Forgotten Memories Go, Mom?

I worked in adult literacy for a great many years and promoting family literacy – including the importance of reading to (and with) your children – was a huge part of the work that we did. I do not recall learning to read but I figure it must have happened sometime between Kindergarten and Grade 1. I spent countless hours of my childhood buried in books, and yet I only have one photo of my Dad reading to me and my little sister, and none at all of Mom reading to us (there is a painful social commentary in there about parenting in the 60s that I will leave for another day). The point is, one day many years ago, now, my curiosity got the better of me: “Mom, did you read to us when we were little?” I asked. I still recall the surprised, halfway-hurt look on her face as she answered me. “Of course I did! All the time! Don’t you remember?” Well no, I didn’t remember. I asked her that question over 20 years ago and I still feel the surge of shame and chagrin as I wish I could take back my words and erase that look from my mother’s face.

Recently, I was on the phone with Mom and as tends to happen these days – her short-term memory is sketchy and was flitting all over the place, while her long-term memory was as clear as a bell. I live very near the city where we lived when I was a young child and she always recalls those years – and that place – with great fondness. It didn’t take long for her to drift into a clear recollection of the days when I was a 3 to 6-year-old child. “Oh, I loved going to the Saturday-morning market with you and your sister when you were little. Do you remember the kittens, honey?” she asked me.

“Gee Mom, I didn’t know you took us there at all,” I said, surprised. To my knowledge, my husband introduced me to that market just a few years ago. He was astonished when I told him I had never been there, although it is absolutely wonderful and located in the city where I lived until I was six years old.

“Oh, we used to do so many fun things in those days,” said my Mom, memory now warmed up and flowing freely through the telephone line. She reminisced for several long, lovely minutes and as she talked, I silently marvelled at how I recall almost nothing of those years: of the things we used to do together.

Once again, I was reminded of how thankless a job it can be to parent a child. The difference now, is that I understand this happens to every parent: how many times have I had similar conversations with my own children? (“You don’t remember when we used to do ‘x’, ‘y’ or ‘z’, honey??”). I am always astonished at the wonderful memories of things I did with my children that seem to be mine alone: my children do not recall those events at all. As a parent, you pour all of these experiences and memories into your children; you do a million different loving things with them over the course of their childhood and… they recall only the tiniest fraction of it…

And yet…as I sat and listened to my Mom recount how we went to the beach; how we went for drives in the car; how she took us to the market to see the kittens for sale; how she took us to the wading pool; I realised that while my childhood memory of those moments is sketchy, I did all of those types of things with my own children; with her grandchildren. I might not consciously remember my mother’s wonderful parenting moments, but subconsciously, I was obviously storing away each and every experience so that when I had children of my own, I would do the same with them.

Oh, Mom, thanks so much… perhaps I remembered after all…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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