This week, my oldest son starts kindergarten. Kindergarten is where, for the most part, my memories start. Sure, I have memories of a few odds and ends before then. I remember dutifully filling a tree stump’s rings with sand because my best friend told me it would make the tree regrow. I remember folding strips of construction paper over each other to form a woven placemat. But these memories are scattered, unanchored. They are like those loose fragments of dreams that stay with you when you wake: you remember you were running, but you can’t remember why or to where.
My memories of kindergarten are more cohesive. I remember sitting in a circle with my classmates and our mothers as we all sang “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” I remember dripping Campbell’s chicken soup noodles out of my mouth and on to my chin, pretending to be Santa Claus, while my mother laughed. These memories feel different. There is emotion behind them. They are in context. There is a narrative. They feel like part of my waking self, part of who I am.
This year my son will probably begin to form these memories too.
Maybe I should feel pressure about this. I know there are some moments I am thankful he was too young to remember. That time he spilled an entire box of buttons on the ground and I barricaded myself in the room with the buttons spilt around me, feeling like Cinderella picking through lentils. He banged on the door, crying, wanting to come in, as I silently dropped buttons back in the box. That time, when I was pregnant with his sister, when the weight of responsibility and my belly became too much, and I cried and cried in front of him. He smiled uncertainly at first, and then started crying too, unsure why water was coming from his rock.
To be honest though, I don’t feel pressure. I am already trying my best to be a good mother and give him and his siblings a good childhood. I make mistakes, and I am sure I will have many more moments I regret. I hope these moments don’t make it to the memory reel, but if they do, they do.
But more than that, I don’t feel pressure because I feel like it’s not really about me. This will likely be the year my son begins to form his narrative. His narrative. He will be the keeper. I will not be able to put them in a photo album to read at bedtime, or relive them later as an amusing anecdote. I may not even know about them until, years later, we sit around the table at Thanksgiving and I ask him what his earliest memories are.
I hope they are good ones. I hope they are funny and strange. I hope they feel comfortable and warm to him, a part of his childhood to take out and examine when he feels unanchored. I hope they are momentous only for their being formed so early and for staying with him throughout his life. Whatever they are, they will be his.