Memory Making

When The Face Paint Washes Away

Memory Making

What will they remember? For a while I thought mine would recall every detail of childhood:

"No Mummy, we sat on that bench over THERE last time. Remember? We ate fishy crackers. And a bird came. I want to sit THERE.”

I was sure such specificity would translate into forever-moments. The ones I tried to savour even as we were still sitting on the bench. I wanted to remember the purity in that glint of excitement, the little extra curve to the r in the word “there”, the small fingers in mine forever.

I still want to stop time, to somehow save moments exactly as they are, tucked into our mutual memories perfectly sunlit and intact. Mementos of love. Childhood preserved.

As the years collect and learning piles up, the computer passwords, the spelling tests and the geography of Canada seem to crowd out the long slow afternoons.  Like temporary tattoos, sidewalk chalk, and face paint, a great many of their bright memories fade. The good news is that they will also not remember the afternoon you were so tired and grumpy that you left the most favourite, can’t-live-without-it blue fleece jacket at home and then lost your temper at the Aquarium in front of the otter tank after a full-throttle public melt down in the chilly rain.  The reproach of that afternoon will drift away, and amazingly, they will even eventually forget all about that jacket. It is true. The one you thought you might have to send to university with them Something From Nothing-style.

They will not, the insensitive brutes, remember your weekly sacrifice after the toddler swim classes in the family bathroom with other people’s stray hair and soggy cracker crumbs under your bare feet as you stood mostly naked and toweled off their shivering selves instead of your own goosebumped flesh. They will however, remember the summers you spend by the water if you do it over and over. Go to the same public beach or community pool. Pack picnics. Spend hours up to your ankles, then knees, then submerged and being lapped by their growing enthusiasm. Spend time together on the same beach blanket drying off. Do it for years. There will be specific memorable events, the first time down the slide, the first terrifying (for you) dive, but if you layer the simple experiences, the same activities and small traditions, the memories seem to compound. Even the little necessary routines like applying lotion:

The predictable squirm and protest.

“No Mum! And it is sunSCREEN anyway.”

The inevitable catch and smear.

“It didn’t used to be. Sit still monkey. I need to get your back.”

Momentary stillness. Love rubbed in.

How many summer afternoons have we spent together? Too many to remember specifically. But the memory of ones we consciously repeat will be right there, and as golden as sunshine on warm skin.


One of our favorite annual Vancouver events, The Vancouver Children’s Festival is on this week at Granville Island. One year we crawled through tunnels made of wonder. One year the circus came to town. One year it rained so hard all the face paint was washed away. The real point is that every year, no matter what, we danced.

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