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Making a Memory

Reneé DiGregorio Glendale CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 2, March-April 2004, p.66

As I get older, I enjoy reminiscing on fond memories of my childhood. Warm thoughts of sharing an early morning snuggle in bed with my mother -- or the times I'd creep into my grandparents' room and ask them to make me breakfast. I'd remember vividly the tugs to my scalp when grandma was braiding my hair. And when she was in her last days, sitting next to her bed holding her hand and making a memory.

"Make a memory," she used to tell me, "and you'll never forget." While holding her delicate hand I took in how lovely and youthful it looked. Her nails were always kept clean and buffed even though her sight was failing. I remember being slightly envious that I had inherited most of her physical stature, but not her lovely hands. It's been nearly 27 years since she's been gone and I can still close my eyes and see her lovely hands, which in turn helps me recall many other memories about her life with me. Thankfully, my dad took many photos that depict every facet of our family. The albums stack high and stimulate many memories, too.

So when other events came into my life that I considered memorable, I'd employ the same trick. I'd hold something or someone; take in their "feel"; taking in an associating scent -- close my eyes, and make a memory. At my wedding, I did that with the scent of my rum-laced wedding cake. The newborn smell of my babies -- that's instantly recalled now when I'm lucky enough to hold a newborn.

The smell of mother's milk brings back the memory of how my clothes and bedding smelled. It has an almost musky, while almost sweet smell. I remember that each baby had their own special smell. Could that be possible or just a mother's fondness?

I remember making a concentrated effort to remember breastfeeding. After three children, and over nine years of straight lactation, you'd think that this wouldn't be difficult. But for some strange reason my "make a memory" technique wasn't as reliable. I certainly remember their little bodies as they grew larger and took up more space on my lap. I certainly remember how small they seemed at birth, and how my arms ached as they got heavier. I remember "aerobic toddler nursing." I can remember so much, but I cannot recall the touch of their mouths at the breast. Why is that? I can't recall the last breastfeeding. With very gradual weaning, how was I to know the last time was actually going to be the last time? I couldn't even remember a date to mark in the baby book.

Was it because breastfeeding was so much a regular part of my life that I felt I didn't need to make a memory any more than remember when the sun came up each morning? Was breastfeeding so incorporated into my life that it was lumped together with all my other daily responsibilities?

I remember one time, when I was at a well-baby check up, Kittie Frantz, CPN and retired LLL Leader, asked me how may times my baby woke to breastfeed at night. I remember that I paused, then answered, "Six times." But then I hesitated and corrected my answer to "four times...or was that the night before?" She smiled knowingly saying that my answer showed that I was handling night waking frequency as nonchalantly as day time nursing. That was very nice to hear because, at that time, I thought I'd never know an undisturbed night again much less be perceived as nonchalant about it.

Again, this is one of those memories where the details have dimmed. How can I not remember details when there was a time I had a toddler and a newborn with almost similar nighttime needs? One morning, I woke to find marks across my oak headboard -- traces of my milk droplets that had somehow landed there during the night. Assuredly while rolling from infant to toddler, my reflex shot a sample of some of the nighttime elixir, of which, still remains decorating the headboard. That may sound silly (or perhaps a little gross) to some, but those tiny spots helps me to remember those nights with a pleasant smile. Funny, I remember missing the closeness, not the loss of sleep.

I guess mothers are guilty of remembering only the good memories. I remind new mothers of this when they call looking for breastfeeding support. Telling them that, considering the full scope of life with our children, the time when they are babies is all too brief. Hold them often. Draw them into your breast. Smell their newborn smell. Take in the aroma of their milk-scented breath. Hold their tiny hands and trace the detail. Make a memory. But just in case -- take lots of pictures.

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