My son is seven months old and, because I’m breastfeeding and on maternity leave, he has barely been away from me since he was born. I am the first face he sees in the morning and the last face he sees at night. The other day I found myself very morbidly pondering the answer to a question; if I died would he remember me?
The general consensus is that our memories reach back to the age of three, although it varies slightly for everyone. Some people claim to remember further back and this may be true, but it is difficult to verify. Memories are tricky things as they can be influenced by external factors. Are we remembering a real memory or could it be a story we were told that has become absorbed into our collection? I recalled a memory to my mum recently only to be informed it was actually something that had happened to my sister!
Sometimes, with regards to my children’s memories, I wish I had Dumbledore’s Pensieve. For anyone who is not a Harry Potter fan (if such a person exists) it is where he stores his memories so that he can examine them at a later date. I would keep all the best bits for them to look back on when they’re older. Some might argue that is what photo albums are for, but I’d keep more than family holidays and happy day trips in there.
My eldest son is five years old. I’d like to keep for him all the times I managed to make him laugh so hard that it turned into a shriek. I’d like to show him the time we sat and read ‘The Twits’ together and how much he giggled at the description of Mr. Twit’s beard. Or when we cuddled after his swimming lesson until he made me soaking wet. I want him to remember the times he snuggled up to me and his dad in bed because he’d just had a nightmare. And when he’s sixteen and trying to avoid me, I’d like to take him back to the moment he told me I was his bestest friend and we would live together forever.
These memories will perhaps reside in his brain somewhere but they will fade and be replaced by newer (and hopefully similarly happy) ones. That is just the way of life.
Anyway back to my question regarding my youngest son who is only seven months old. I realise it’s a rather depressing question but we can’t all be cheerful all of the time.
If I died would he remember me?
And the evidence says that the answer is no because when he’s older his memories will only stretch back to the age of three. And yet…
I can’t believe he won’t remember the woman who lay next to his hospital bed and watched him intently for hours, the person he cried out for at ungodly hours of the night, the woman whose face he grabbed and mimicked and stared at in fascination, the person his eyes would search frantically for in a crowded room because she was the one person who made him feel safe and secure in the crazy world he suddenly found himself. Me. His mother. Could he really forget a person who loved him so much?
And in my heart of hearts I don’t think he could. Maybe he wouldn’t recall my features or my voice but surely there would be a place for me; a place I made my own when I carried him, gave birth to him, loved him and cared for him.
I can’t help but think that a mother’s love, whether remembered or not, is powerful enough to leave an permanent imprint; like a subconscious knowledge that tells them they come from love and are part of a family. I find this thought reassuring, not only in case the worst happens to me but also for when the time comes they must venture out into the big, wide world by themselves. They can carry it with them. My imprint.