Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Close to Six at Twenty-six

They say: Where does the time go? Where does it? I was absent-mindedly washing my son's hair in the bath tonight when I realized that he is almost six years old.

Almost six years old! My memories start at six.

I was pushing bubbles out from between the strands of his hair, rubbing his little scalp with my fingers as the realization washed over me. His skin still has that plumpish, sweet-baby clarity, but his legs are long and knobby like a foal's. He has running legs, playing legs - dotted with penny bruises from tumbles and fine scratches from tree-climbs.

I don't think my legs were ever like a foal's, though they were always bruised at the knee - rollerskating at six, seven to twelve.

I remember being six. And maybe that is why his age struck me the way it did tonight, at the edge of the tub, on my knees, at the mercy of the moment. Because I remember six, and because he is almost six.

He will remember six. He will remember this moment, I thought. The magnitude of this!

I don't really remember a whole lot about five. Things started at six. When I was six, I spent days at the art table making sock puppets, pretending to be a teacher, watching Matlock and microwaving marshmellows when no one was looking. I had a tiara. Six was good.

Most importantly at twenty-six, six does not feel that far away. I do not feel old enough to have a six year-old son. If we are being honest, most of the time, I feel six myself (minus the energy and plus the PMS). Six feels near, close. If I turned my head over my shoulder, I'd see six. If I reached back, I'd touch six. It would be fuzzy. It would be warm.

Six glows in the dark and is clean. It smells of Zest soap and Pert Plus, having been sterilized by time, I'm sure.

And my son at twenty-six? Twenty-six is good, too, but he'll remember six. Now. Today. This moment could be with him forever, with him at twenty-six, thirty-six to sixty-six.

It is strange to think that my son will remember the moments we make together - here in the bath, on the playground. I often wonder what our memories will mean to him. I wonder which memories he will really remember - the ones he will hold close to his heart, revisit, dedicate time to. I wonder which ones will fade into luke-warm, out-of-focus childhood feelings and which ones will crash over him at night just before sleep in his 20's and 30's - the sharp ones that feel like they just happened but came in like a flood from nowhere.

I hope he remembers me washing his hair and playing Billy Goats Gruff on the playground. I hope he remembers snuggling and hot chocolate before school. Surely, he'll remember snuggling! We spend so much time doing it. I know he'll remember times I wish he wouldn't. There are plenty of grumpy-mommy moments to choose from - moments of uncertainty and hesitation and sheer exhaustion.

Regardless, I look forward to his discovery, whether or not I witness it or get to discuss it with him, of the nearness, closeness, the just-over-the-shoulder feeling of being six. Because what a marvelous thing memory is! Really, the magnitude of it's presence. Time passes but remains suspended in our minds through memory, if we are careful - like a twenty-something toy boat in bath water, bobbing, carrying us.

So what does my value of memory and time and preservation and closeness mean for my son? What does this mean for us - for Moms who can still feel their childhood but have children of their own?

Memories are contributions. Contributions to create with care. Today. Cliche sentiment? For sure! And with good reason.

If I am twenty-six and still I feel close to being six years old, like I can grasp it in my hands and pull it back to me with the singular desire to remember, we must act, create, live and build memories of wonder and happiness each day, right now - for ourselves and those around us.

By acting, creating, living, building we are changing people. We are contributing to their lives, and through memory, to their futures. For that reason, we must make memories out of the good-fabric of who we are. Because we will remember. Our sons will remember - our daughters, our husbands and friends. And our memories will be part of us and of them.

And not only will we be in memory, our memories will be close, reachable. They will be all around us and in us and in others - from six to twenty-six.

These memories I create today, all of them will be in my son's future and in my future son.

The Grateful Nostalgia within me says: Thank you, builders and designers of six - parents, friends, teachers, writers, sock-makers, Matlock, Zest. Thank you for six, however soap-stained and sanitized. Twenty-six would not be so grand without such times.

May I do as much for my son.

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