The Quality of Memory


The other day I wrote about how incredibly hard it was, dealing with a newborn. How it was draining and confusing and often baffling. How lost I felt, so much of the time.

But here’s the thing: it was also hard to recall. I wrote the piece partly because Peter and I had trouble remembering a lot about those early days, and I figured that breaking down the day hour by hour might bring some of it back. I didn’t want to forget any of it, even the crappiest, most agonizing parts. 

Love does funny things. It’s the best kind of drug: you know the pain is there, but the pain no longer matters. It’s what makes romantic love so dangerous, and having a baby so survivable. Love colours our memories.

Or maybe it’s just me. Years ago, I worked for an online gambling company, the last place I thought I’d find myself. When I was trying to decide between accepting that job and a prestigious position at a high-profile advertising agency, I said to Pete, “It’s sort of like trying to decide between the popular kids (ad agency) and rock and roll (gambling). And I want to be rock and roll.” 

I found my people there. Several of my closest friends came from that place. Even now, I miss it dearly. But Pete always reminds me that there were times I was miserable, and stressed out and desperate to leave. “Yeah,” I’ll say. “But the people, Pete. Some of the best people I’ve ever known.” Because today, all I see are the friends I made and kept. 

It’s funny how love can do that, can pull a gauzy curtain over things that are hard. The times when Reiden hated being put in her crib, when she insisted on being bounced or carried all day long, when I was the only person who could comfort her in the evenings: they’re faded, and vague, and no longer tinged with the same worry that things might never change. How love illuminates and fixes in my memory, in crystal detail, the first time she laughed, smiled at a stranger, babbled to herself in the mirror.

And now, after several nights in a row when Reiden kept thrashing around in her crib and waking me up and then I couldn’t sleep and kept waking her up and she needed a diaper change at 3:00 and wanted to eat at 2:00 and 4:00, even though child there’s no way you can be hungry and 5:30 is not an acceptable time to get up…

When it’s finally morning for real, and I lean over her crib, and she smiles even though the room is still mostly dark: everything else fades away, and I think about how lucky I am. How lucky all of us are, not just parents but people, to be able to love like that.

(Plus, I am banking every cute thing she does for later, when she’s a teenager and driving us crazy and I hate all her friends, especially that one kid. He’s sweaty and pimply and wears these stupid misogynistic t-shirts that are meant to be ironic and his name is Holster.)