I read a magazine article at least 20 years ago which I have been unable to find since. The subject of that article is what I want to cover in this piece although certainly with much less eloquence.
So much is said and done about a baby’s firsts. “This is little Sean’s first step”, “Kerry’s first word”, etc. Those events are fairly easy to remember and easier to document. Photo albums, Baby’s First diaries and the like are everywhere. But if baby’s first fart is what you’re focusing on, you’re missing what could be some of the strongest memories from your child’s formative years.
More important to burn into memory are your child’s lasts. Sounds funny to say that since we are all programmed to give so much relevance to let’s say baby’s first snot bubble. When I read that piece on a baby’s lasts, I thought, “wow…I wish I had read this many years ago.” I have many memories from the years when my daughter and son were growing up. From the day each was born until now. I paid attention to them a lot. I savored many ordinary and special moments from my children’s everyday life. But if I had read that article before they were born, I would have had even more quality memories today.
For instance when my son Nicolas was 6 or 7 years old, we used to go down to an old abandoned golf course which was at the end of the street and down some slopes. When we were exploring the field, I could see once again, life through the eyes of my little buddy. They were not particularly interesting to anyone but us. But aside from one or two particular events, I cannot remember most of those times. If I could go back, I would focus on our last visit to the field. It would be a stronger memory than any other event connected to that field. Mainly because it would be the last time we did that together.
When my daughter Jacy was in fifth or sixth grade we played Nintendo games a lot. We never bought a new game until we’d finished the current game. So we didn’t buy Mario Brothers 2 until we had kissed the princess in the first game. We had a lot of fun finding clues and tips from other people who had already been to our level and passed it. I can very easily remember the first time we played Nintendo and how fascinated we were at what was at the time a very high tech game system and some milestones in between.
But if I had known which time would be our last, I would have much more of a benchmark in her rapidly escaping childhood. I would have been able to mark that time down in a book of lasts. “today Jacy and I played our last game of Nintendo together. I guess it’s time she moved on with her growing up.”
I can somewhat remember her first bicycle riding attempt. But I can’t recall the last time we biked through our neighborhood together. Something we did a lot of at one point. When was the last time Nicolas came home and showed me his report card beaming with pride. The last pumpkin patch we went to. The last time Jacy and I washed her car together or she helped with mine. The last time either of them fell asleep on my chest as little bundles of baby. The very last diaper you ever put on your child. The last night sleeping at home before getting married, or going off to college. The last time you bathed that child and wrapped them up in a fresh towel before they were old enough for modesty to motivate them towards bathing themselves. Answered one of the millions of mundane questions that children ask to feed their ravenous appetite for knowledge starved little brains. Put a tooth under a pillow…and on and on it goes.
Each last event normally signifies a graduation of sorts. From one stage to another they continue to leave little memory markers along the trail. But you need to pay attention or you won’t see the value in so many of the last things they do.
The same principle can be applied to everyday life with someone you love. A family member, a spouse, a good friend. These are all people with whom we share our lives and they should occupy a large part of our memories. It is so common to hear a conversation that goes something like this; “Wow. Do you remember how we used to go to that little restaurant in town every Saturday morning for breakfast?" "Yes, when and why did we stop doing that?”
So with these few words, - sort of like bumping a comment up the thread ladder of a blog - I am hoping that even one person reading, sees it in time enough to keep those all too important memories from slipping away. They are the ones you will miss when looking back over the years that sped by ever so quickly. Because time is one thing that can never be regained. And memories not made, are not memories at all. They are just moments in time.