Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writing it all down

Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend, who could hear Cora babbling in the background and asked what she was doing. She was lying on her belly across my lap, singing to (apparently) my knee and bobbing her body up and down like a harp seal making for the ocean.

"You’re writing all this down, of course," my friend said.

"Of course," I said, mentally revising her words to You mean to write all this down, don’t you? And I do mean to, because while I know better than to trust my memory, I seldom actually get around to the writing part. I think a lot about the various ways Cora’s babyhood is being recorded, all of them faulty to one degree or another.

I have my memory - famously bad about things like dates and places, famously good about plots and characters. I have sharp mental pictures of Cora in her silly moods, the way she jack-knifes her body and laughs at the same time, overcome with the fun of whatever we are doing. Or her expression as, early last September, her Dad carried her around the shallow end of a hotel pool, Cora in her bright green swim diaper, the one I almost didn’t buy for the trip, and a little t-shirt, clearly thrilled to feel the pool water on her legs. A waterbaby despite her Taurus birthdate!

We have photos, conventional and digital. Often in these she is blurry, either because our cameras are not high-end or (and?) because she seems to be always in motion. Always bobbing with excitement. The digital photos feel strangely fragile to me - somehow half-imaginary, existing only in the camera, on the computer. Putting them in the blog actually makes them feel a little more permanent. The problem here is that we’d rather experience Cora’s babyhood rather than have complete documentary record. (Hence, no Thanksgiving pictures this year, except from goofing around with hats earlier in the day.)

And then there is the written record. I think there are about three different journals floating around the house, including one on the computer, where I’ve tried to put together accounts of my pregnancy, Cora’s birth, the days just after. I’ve had such small spaces of time to try to write things down, I tend to use whatever notebook is closest to hand, hoping that some day I can somehow collect them all and create a whole out of the pieces.

Clearly, it’s an imperfect system. I’d like to believe I will always remember how she looks, what she sounds like, the things she does; already sometimes I have to really work to remember how she felt in my arms when she was a newborn. But other times those same memories, the ones I thought were all but lost, flash on me with astounding clarity. Does this continue? One day, fifteen years from now will that harp seal moment wash back over me, perhaps as I listen to my daughter talking on the phone to one of her friends?

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Yes, that moment and others are with you your whole life, even after Cora has long since hung up and moved out. Even I, with my terrible memory, can call up a whole 3-D sound and motion album full of wonderful little episodes centered around our children. No blog server could host that much memory. Hmmm. Well, maybe it could nowadays, but half the fun is sharing memories with each other and comparing them to what's happening now and to our hopes for their futures.
But to your point, we started out documenting everything, but as the family and job demands grew, we weren't able to keep up. And with hindsight, it's okay that way too.