Four, Thirty Four, Sixty Four
I remember being four years old.
I remember being in the back seat of my dads car, driving around Pleasanton on the way home from school.
The sounds on the stereo. The smell of the fabric in the 1983 Toyota Camry.
The way that waking up was a joy, and going to sleep was disappointing. The smell of hay, cows, exhaust, ozone and barbecue.
The feeling that I got when I saw my mom or my dad when they got home from work. When my grandparents and uncle visited.
The heat of the summer and the cool of a pool. The challenge of everything new that was before me. Learning to ride a bike. Put my clothes on. Go to preschool.
I remember being four and having a world so contained and yet so full.
The memories come in flashes. There and then gone, leaving only the deep sense of nostalgia, longing and disappointment that thirty years hence, the world is bigger, more complicated and more willful in its ability to disappoint.
My son turned four last week.
It is an age I remember well. I’m 30 years older and the memories of my youth are now fading, but the memories of my son’s youth are being formed. This queer transference of nostalgia to discovery, realizing that for everything I forget, he is experiencing and setting the memory anew.
He wakes up each day to something that he has never seen. There is no routine, no recipe, no looking forward to the days end. Any given day is a wonder of discovery, learning, emotion and experiences. Every night those memories are set, as he greets sleep with a resignation rather than relief. In five years he’ll remember four years old as something, and in 10 and in 20.
In thirty years my son will be my age and I’ll be sixty four.
Will he look back on today and think about me warmly? Will he remember being in the back of my car on the way to preschool, singing along to Pearl Jam, a band that will be 50 years old at that point? Will he remember me picking him up by the ankles and holding him over the tub when he didn’t want to take a bath?
Will he remember my kiss goodnight, or my hug when he awoke? His dogs, his cat? His first bike? His best friends? The people that loved him that have departed?
Will he remember that he was and is the best of his mother and I? A 37 inch (“and a half daddy!”) encapsulation of energy and joy that bounces through the world as if thirty years from now is an eternity away?
I had a good childhood and a good life and I look back on four with longing but no regret. I miss the sepia tone memories as the pictures fade, and as the people in them fade as well. I miss these people most of all.
I spend my life with a child who is making the memories of his future nostalgia. I hope our love for him lingers within it.