Look at Her


I can't remember.

Annie's first words or the way it felt to fall in love for the first time. The Thanksgiving I crawled behind the toy box with my sister and ate enough Flintstone vitamins to make me vomit the entire day, or the Christmas morning that we slept so late my parents thought we might have died in our sleep.

I can't remember.

The songs at my Papaw's funeral or the passages of scripture read in my own wedding. The cruel words I've hurled at my husband or the cruel glances that left me wanting to hurl them in the first place.

I can't remember.

My first roller coaster. My first date. My first "C." Whether I really liked high school or the essay that got me into university.

I can't remember.

What I must have journaled about when I was 16- or if I journaled at all? Conversations at the dinner table. Why I laid in my windowsill as a little girl and cried at the smell of fresh rain. Or if that person I loved and trusted really shut the door and locked it, revealing his gun, counting his bullets slowly, spinning the revolver in front of my terrified eyes, telling me what kind of harm he could do with it.

Some moments are blurry.

What did I really, truly think I was going to grow up and do with my life? Did I really think I was going to be an artist? Have I always loved people as much as I do now? Was I born with empathy?

I can't remember.

Truth is, it's all a bit fuzzy. Foggy around the edges. There are glimmers of memories based on truth. I think. There are things I am certain I did; things I am certain that I said. Stories that pop to into my mind immediately. Emotions paired with songs; longings paired with smells; peace paired with roads well-worn in my childhood. I didn't not exist. There are the remnants of a life-well lived. Stories I know I have been a part of.

But all too often I worry that the stories are simply that. Stories. Versions of folklore told and re-told. Each one added to, embellished and re-hashed with less clarity each dramatic re-telling. Pictures and grainy visions of what I have convinced myself to believe about my past- about the unfolding of a life-

I want to remember the unfolding of my life.

Of my daughter's life. My family's life.

But I just can't remember.

What is true and what really happened?

Annie's first word? Probably da-da or ba-ba. Dad, ball and sheep were her favorite things, so I like to imagine these were her first words. But really- I'm not sure.

I remember the names of certain teachers; but there are entire classrooms I would swear I have never walked into; records prove otherwise. There are people alienated along the way, hurt by my words and my opinions; though I could not pinpoint when I pulled the trigger or what it looked like to watch them fall. Did I really shoot to kill?

I want to remember. First words and first kisses. Moments of defiance and moments of humility. My Grandpa's laugh and the sweet touch of my great-grandmother, who never spoke the same language as me, but always spoke love and gentleness over me. I want to remember every funny, smart, silly, brilliant, empathetic, wild and dreamy thought my daughter ever brings forth into the world. And I want to remember the times that God has shown up.

it's ok.

So another year is ending and a new one beginning and I am face to face with reality once again.

I don't remember. And I want to so badly. I want to remember it all. I want to feel it, smell it, touch it, wrap myself in it. The good, bad, ugly, beautiful, mundane, simple moments

the unfolding of a life

I want to hold onto it and keep it from slipping through the cracks of my mind's memory.

but I can't

and once again I am reminded-

it's ok if I can't remember it all


Fuzzy and blurred as it is around the edges- I am the living embodiment of the memory- every moment I have lived has entered me and shaped me.

The very essence of my being is a million moments cobbled together so that all I must do is look in the mirror and I will see tiny glimmers of the very moments I want to hold onto. They are not gone- they are the very essence of who I am- each one there, woven into me.

So I can't remember Annie's first words and I am already forgetting what it felt like for her to breathe on my chest and the funny noises she made after she sneezed and the first time I disciplined her and the first time she told me she loved me back and the first song she sang and the first time she told me she could do it all by herself...

I will not mourn as if these are lost moments that I will eventually forget as they slip through the blurry cracks of my memory-  they are not lost moments. They are present.

I look at Annie now and she is the living, breathing embodiment of a million moments cobbled together.

And though I cannot name them all-

I look at her and I see the unfolding of a beautiful life.

I can feel it, touch it, wrap myself in it- the memories that is. Because they are standing in front of me. Laughing. Giggling. Growing gloriously. And every mistake I make as a mama or every beautiful word I whisper over her- every trip we take and moment we create- it is there- cobbled together in skin and bones and heart and soul on display-

So my specific memories will fade. And I will be tempted to mourn and wonder what is true and what is not- how did the story really go?

And then I will remember- the past is presently alive- the unfolding of the life is on full display- captured in flesh and bone and person-

All I have to do is look in the mirror.

All I have to do is look at her.