What I remember most from that summer is the walking. Dozens of miles. Night after night, hot and sticky, with you strapped to my chest. Sometimes you were quiet and watchful. Other times you were asleep as I ate slices of pizza just above your head. And still other times you were screaming, full-throated and raspy, with those feet that have never stopped moving.
You do not remember this, but I do.
I remember the hours I spent with you latched to my breast. Desperate to stay there even in your sleep. Nestled together on the couch, watching TV, propped up with all kinds of pillows to ease the ache in my neck.
You do not remember, but I do.
You don’t remember the dances I did at three a.m., calling on any higher power I thought would listen to calm you down. How I walked you around the neighborhood outside in the middle of the night, in indecent pajamas. How I finally discovered the magic sequence of moves — a creeping Thriller-style walk down the block. I’m sure someone saw me.
You don’t remember the first time you backed up, looked at me and smiled. No one has ever been so delighted to see me. It was almost evening and the sun filled the room as we sat together on the couch.
You don’t remember the times I thought I would drown in a sea of too muchness. Tormented by scary thoughts and fueled by rage. How I resolved to not to waste my suffering. The times your dad had to have enough faith for all three of us.
You don’t remember the joy you brought to my grandmother, who delighted in your chubby legs as we sat around hospice waiting for her to die. You don’t remember babbling at her funeral while the rest of us cried.
You don’t know about any of these things. And if I were to tell you about them, which someday I will likely do, you won’t understand them. You will never know who I was before you. I will never know who I would have been without you. But life is a long and winding road, with many forks, and sometimes you just have to choose.
If, decades from now, you were to have your own child, then perhaps you might ponder similar things in your heart and wonder if the woman who is your mother had also kept such secrets. If a similar inheritance was bestowed upon you before you could remember. Perhaps that knowledge will be profoundly humbling to you as well.
I am certain that I have already forgotten more than I will ever be able to remember. Sometimes it comes back to me in snatches. A memory jogged by a picture of you in the white hat. The way I would nuzzle your neck and breathe in your smell before I took a nap. The funny faces we traded back and forth over dinners. How you slept through the blender but not the sound of Velcro. The way that I thought it would never end but then it did, and I felt the loss.
You do not remember the year that I became a mother. But I do.