Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Kenna Lee-ribas
The first time, I think I will never forget. How could I, as each milestone, each moment, enters and lingers with such sweet resonance? After the long days of strangely exhilarating boredom, after the months of pointing out ball, blue, baby, mama--my first child's first word, so monumental, seems to etch itself into a granite wall of Things I Could Never Forget.
By the third child, I know I won't remember. I know that however astounded and proud I am today, in a year I'll have forgotten the details. I know because I've already wiped my slate of Things I Won't Forget about the first two children into a fuzzy blur of half-legible scrawls, and this foreknowledge shades each of number three's accomplishments with a bittersweet hue.
Some things I remember: "Twas brillig and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe…" Not only the first several lines of "Jabberwocky," but the opening lines of Beowulf, the "Blow, winds, crack your cheeks, rage" speech from King Lear, even obscure traffic rules with few applications--all of these have claimed permanent places in my brain. They all have one thing in common: I was under 30 when I learned them.
My third child's first word, spoken sometime between my 39th and 40th birthdays: gone. Was it "duck?" She loves ducks, probably "duck." No, maybe it was "cat," I have some bleary sense that she might have said "cat" precociously early. But wait, what about "Mama," hasn't she been saying "Mama" forever?
These things I will lose forever: the unreproducibly gutteral chicken sound, the particular lilt with which she says "Dga-dey" for her brother, the upraised palms displaying their damp just-washedness. The loss of each new gain cuts at me a little, for this time I understand the loss to be irretrievable. Two never comes again, and tiring as two can be, there is pure magic in the explosion of language, magic I can glimpse in those brief moments between understanding and speech, magic that disappears as soon as I start to take it for granted, as I surely will.
So instead of vowing to remember, I pledge to pay attention. If I will not have this juncture stored in my memory, then today, now, is my only chance to experience it. And so, even as I grieve each moment's passing, I revel in its fullness.
Kenna Lee-Ribas is a hospice nurse and erstwhile midwife living in Sonoma County, California She has written mainly for nursing and midwifery journals. She will become a raging eco-warrior as soon as she figures out how to get rid of her minivan.
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