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Memoria

by The Next Family September 19, 2009

By: Tosha Woronov
Italy
Two years ago we took a trip to Tuscany. Italy had always been my idea of a romantic destination, but because neither Pete nor I could imagine leaving Leo behind, the trip became a family one. Leo was 3 at the time, big enough to enjoy the experience, but still small enough to not prefer Disneyland. People said he would never remember the trip, so why bring him? I believed that even should he retain none of it, the simple fact of having traveled to Italy would benefit him for life. I had never been anywhere, which meant suffering -unable to contribute -through too many party conversations about Paris (or Barcelona or Rome). I liked that Leo would, at the very least, be able to say he had been to Europe.

Well, one month shy of his 5th birthday, Leo does not remember a thing about Italy. I learned this yesterday over frozen yogurt. I was talking about all the gelato we ate in Tuscany and how he would eat only vanilla, and I, pistachio. His reply: “Was I in your tummy when we were there?”

I couldn’t believe it. Italy is in my soul. I swear, I left a piece of my heart at the plaza overlooking Florence, and he doesn’t remember being there at all?

I tried again:
Remember walking through the mud and eating the super-sweet grapes off the vines and playing with that funny dog, “Pasta Asciutta”?
-No.
Remember chasing the pigeons in the rain?
-No.
Remember walking through the village and shouting “Buon Giorno, Ladies!”?
-No.
Remember you ate prosciutto every night? Remember we had to climb 33 steps to our house, and it was like an old castle?
-No. No.
Remember daddy got our tiny little car stuck in the teeny little alleyway, and we all laughed so, so hard?
-Was Charlie in the car with us?
(Our dog?! Of course not.)

How is this possible?

Peter’s one question explained it all:
“Tosh, how much do you remember from being a kid, especially at 3?”

Nothing, I guess. I don’t know. There are snippets. Flashes of a life not really mine, jumbled by my child’s eye, adult interpretation, family lore, and the general fog of time.

Panic rising in me, I wanted to cry: “Peter, he won’t remember any of this? Our life together? The nightly giggles on the bed, the games you guys make up, the songs we sing, the hotel trips, the kisses?”

No.

These times with my son are the culmination of everything I want, the sum of all that matters. But for him they will be, at best, snapshots of a life of a person he once was and won’t remember.

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