Tuesday, May 4, 2010

what she’ll remember

Friday. A final goodbye. One last bear hug. A period at the end of a sentence that I know she can't really see.

Okay, you can let go of me now. Okay. OKAY.

Unbound, she waved once more to her friend as we left the classroom and walked to our car. His family is moving to the West Coast. [Best wishes, you guys!]

His mom told me that as he looked moving away in the eye, he brushed his fingers over the idea that he wouldn't finish the year with his preschool friends and said, But how will I marry Claire O?

She has a picture hanging on the wall next to her pillow – a goodbye art project he gave to her. A marker-drawn red heart next to his name.

That way, we tell her, pointing out the front window in a south-westerly direction. You can look that way and think of him.

That fact that Claire will likely never see this little boy again rests like a lump in my throat. It's silly, I know – change is inevitable and we say goodbyes all the time.

But I'm also thinking about being five and about the fact that I remember being five.

I remember climbing the slide at St. Bernadette's chanting I think I can I think I can with Andy Dirk. We ate raisins together. It might have been him who dunked someone's stuffed animal in the fish tank on Bring your Bear to School day. Maybe not, though. Those memories are brittle and yellowing around the edges.

I remember walking around the block with my older sister in bare feet after it rained. The corner—our boundary, the edge of our world. Tracing those footprints sunk in the street cement with my mind's eye – a ritual. They abruptly stopped midway across the street. Santa got in his sleigh right there— I just knew it.

I remember waking up early – before my sisters – and tasting the privilege of parents all to myself.

I remember not napping and instead helping my mom with something in the kitchen. Mixing salad dressing? Something got in my eye and I cried out in a voice that didn't sound like mine. You'll wake your sisters.

I remember swinging and jumping in leaf piles and playing percussion with sticks on metal garbage cans. I remember pillow football with dad and chicken and baked potatoes with Grandma. I remember Mr. Rodgers at lunch time and spreading liver sandwiches made by mom and the smell of our living room carpet and the shape of that room's crown molding.

There's a lot I don't remember, too – scenes and emotions that have gone dark under the weight of years and other experiences. Notably, I can't dredge up much strife or conflict. I know I threw fits and fought with my sisters and felt minute injustices and fell on scraped knees. And I know my mother must have felt a lot of the daily frustrations that I feel these days. And maybe she even showed it. But I don't remember that.

Claire is up for the day, already breakfasted and off coloring in the very-messy room she shares with Eliza. I wonder what her memory is recording right now and what will bubble to the surface in twenty years when she consciously tries to remember being five. I wonder if she'll remember hugging Ty goodbye last week. I wonder if she'll remember yesterday's out-of-control emotions when a promised evening outing couldn't deliver. I wonder if she'll remember Goodnight Moon at every bedtime or playing Little House. I wonder if the sight of a dance leotard will always make her hungry for pizza. I wonder if she'll remember begging for stories and learning to tell her own. I wonder if she'll remember helping me knead the bread. I wonder if she'll remember the frustration that some days write on my face and embed in my soundtrack.

There's a lump in my throat as I wonder what she'll remember because one day very soon being five will move away. Not all at once but little by little and I might not be able to grab a big enough handful to hug it goodbye before its gone.