I remember the weight that my small arms held. I remember the pounding of my little heart, as it beat ferociously within my chest. I remember the warmth of the mid-March night. I remember the sweetness of that face.
My earliest memory is one of happiness. It is one of meeting someone who would be my constant companion for the next nineteen years and my life long friend. It was the day my mother brought home my sister.
I was barely three. We lived in Queens, New York at the time. I cannot recall anything about the apartment we lived in, but I do remember the roughness of the small plaid fabric that covered the sofa I carefully sat on.
My grandmother had come to stay with me for over a month before my sister was born. There were complications that required that my mother be hospitalized for the last couple of months before my sister was born. Nature is a tricky combatant. The final ultrasound determined that my sister was overdue, labor was induced with no desired results. Blood anticoagulants were reversed, an emergency cesarean delivered my beautiful baby sister.
Over the phone calls during that time apart, my mother had promised me the ability to hold my baby sister when she arrived at home. I don't remember my parents coming home, but I do remember sitting with my back all the way to the back of the couch. Of holding my breath in anticipation. Of the weight in my arms and her soft, pink face, as she sighed her sweet baby sighs in my small, inefficient arms.
I remember my grandmother arguing with my mother, pleading with her not to place my sister in my arms, that I was too little, that I would drop her. My mother placed that precious baby, bundled against the cold New York spring in scratchy, white woolen clothes and blanket.
I remember that newborn baby, opening her eyes and looking at me as if to say, "I know you. I am here."
In the pictures that were taken that night, my face shows a curious expression for such a young child. I have this look of wonder, of delight, of happiness.
All throughout her pregnancy, my mother ingrained in my young mind that I was this baby's little mother. That I was responsible for her. Truer words were never spoken.
When I see my two young nieces, I am constantly reminded of how fortunate my sister and I have been, in spite of such a painful childhood. We had each other; always, to love and support the other. My nieces are following in suit. It is uncanny how much they look like us, act like us. A constant reminder of our good fortune.
I wonder what memories will stand out for my sons. Already, they talk about their youngest brother's birth, their young cousins' births, trips and activities we have shared. I wonder if one single event will stand out for them as my sister's birth stood out for me. I wonder if they have yet to have their life altering memory.
Memories, I feel, are gifts from the past. They are there, to carry you through hard times, through grief, longing, sadness.
They are there as a reminder of what worked, what was right, what was good, when things don't quite go as planned.
They are there to ground you. To remind you of who you are, what you are capable of, of the happiness your heart can hold.
But more importantly, like snapshots of a life well-lived, they are always with you. A quick glance back to a time when life was simpler, less chaotic.
As parents, we are bombarded by memories of our children's infancy, toddlerhood, middle childhood. We glean from the best, wistfully recall the details, the when's and why's.
It takes Courage to invite Happiness in.
Happiness brings Memories.
And of all of these, Memories of Happiness are by far the most cherished.