I’m no neuroscientist but here is my analogy of how our memories work. When we are young, our memories are like a soft malleable record. The needle doesn’t have to weigh much to make deep penetrating grooves that stay with us for a lifetime. As we age, that record begins to solidify and the grooves don’t go as deep.
When there is something very traumatic, the sheer weight of it makes a deeper groove and therefore the memory lasts.
When Stefanie was killed, the most recent memories I had with her I played over and over in my mind deepening that groove and those memories.
For the very first time, a few days after Christmas 2007, Stefanie, Ian and I decided to spend their Christmas money shopping in the States. Stefanie being 14 was thrilled, Ian, at 12, maybe not so much. But the idea of spending 2 days together, just the 3 of us (without the constant noise of their 4 and 2 year old brothers) was very enticing. We took off for Grove City PA and had a blast the whole time. How clear those memories are of the laughs we had together.
I’ve relived those memories 1000 times and they are clearer than most I have of any other time.
Each year since, Ian and I have spent the same couple of days, just us, continuing the tradition that we would have otherwise spent with Stefanie as well. But this year was the first that we returned to Grove City proper.
As Ian slept early in the morning, I got up and walked over to the mall. There was no one there but me and as I walked around, the memories of each store, each conversation, our exact “plan of attack” for the stores, washed over me. I was shocked at how vivid each memory was and how grateful I was for those few moments alone to truly relish each one.
Of course, the memory doesn’t distinguish between pleasing and disturbing memories and the events of this day 4 years ago are as clear as the day itself.
Even memories that I didn’t personally experience but those of Stefanie that I only imagined repeatedly in my mind are as real as if I had suffered them myself and they hurt equally as deep as they did that tragic day. I have a feeling of dread that is just under the surface.
In 2008, Patrick had only turned 2 a month and 1/2 before. For those of you who have had a child that age, I don’t need to say anymore. Suffice to say that they are oblivious to anything except themselves and force their parents to attend to their ferocious immediate needs.
Last night, as I visited with a friend, Elena (who turned 2 in October) dropped a glass snow globe which broke and smashed into a million razor sharp pieces of glass. Talk about being transported from any other thought fully into the present moment.
It was as I lay in bed last night praying for a nightmare free sleep that I realized how powerful the present moment can be forcing us to focus on the needs of the moment rather than the past.
So as the day begins, we’ve had a joke played on Ian that he didn’t find very funny, a drawing of Patrick’s wrecked by Elena, a fight for the iPad, one kid who wants to be alone (as if), and 4 little kids easily brought to tears because of a late night and the fact that it is Jan. 1st.
As miserable as this might look to those of you who are childfree, it’s exactly what I need to stay in the present. Without them I would be lost.
When we first awoke and that weight pushed us almost through the mattress and onto the floor, in came 4 little monkeys. With their hugs and kisses professing their immeasurable love for us, we felt a few rays of light shinning through the darkness.
Thank goodness for anything that helps us stay in the present because it’s only in the present that we can find any happiness.