I have a small suitcase in which I keep hard copies of samples of old work projects, ads I’ve created, magazines I’ve edited and the like. Most of it pre-dates my own computer age and hard-drive storage. I wiped the dust off of this case today to look for something, and in the process came across copies of letters I had sent to my parents documenting the pregnancy that would lead to my oldest daughter and their first grandchild, and continuing on for the first seven months or so after Faith was born.
I didn’t even remember writing these letters, let alone shoving copies into the case, but it was a weird feeling to, in essence, receive a letter from my past self.
The series started with the news that we were indeed pregnant, having had an ultrasound at approximately 9 weeks gestation. It was early for such a procedure, but my wife’s Ob-Gyn — having himself performed a tubal ligation on her five years previously (that we hadn’t had undone) — was concerned that she might have a tumor or a tubal pregnancy. Yet the ultrasound definitely showed us a baby with head, arms, legs and hands, right where it was supposed to be. The following bulletins were generally short and, while rapturously fascinating to me, would be of little interest to anyone else, I’m sure.
The reason I’m writing about this, however, is because so many details I recorded had faded completely out of my memory. Heavens to Murgatroid – I didn’t remember the way she stuck her top lip out when smiled, or how she’d drag her stuffed frog across her eyes when she was going to sleep, or the sneak attack she staged on her mom’s Banana Flip, or the game we liked to play with her Obo the Clown doll (I didn’t even remember Obo the Clown!), or the origins of my wife’s ongoing healthy dietary habits that took root while she was pregnant. And there were probably countless other details that I didn’t bother to write down because I was sure they were too significant to forget — yet now I have no clue what these might have been. What was the first thing she laughed at? Did she like applesauce? When did she discover shopping?
Today almost 17 years later I sat at a picnic table in a park, pondering and watching Faith and her best friend sitting under a shade tree 50 yards away. When did they become such beauties? What are they talking about? What dreams and schemes are they bending their prodigious wills and talents toward? It was a moment that brought me pause, yet a week from now would I have remembered it? Will I recall a year from now how my heart skipped a beat earlier this evening when I realized she was 15 minutes overdue and hadn’t called?
Perhaps every memory is indeed intact but stored away inside with a “Do Not Open Before 2010” label or something. That’s because now is the time to keep my eyes open to record future memories, rather than closed to review memories. There will be way too much time for that later, and all too soon.