My five nieces and one nephew are getting to the ages where they start to remember things on their own. They are making memories for themselves, and not relying on the adults around them to recount memories for them. I’m finding it even more delightful to spend time with them lately.
Recently, two of my nieces came up to the family cottage for a few days. Our four year old Dolly walked into the cottage and looked out the window and said, “Hey look! The lake!” Just seeing the lake for the first time was such a joy. She immediately asked to go fishing with her Papa.
Later in the week, we were sitting on the dock and I pointed out the tiny minnows swimming underneath us. “Catch one, Tootie!” We grabbed our frog nets and a bucket of lake water, and I scooped out a few minnows for the girls to see. “Can we eat them, Tootie?” I explained that we technically could, but we’d probably want to wait until they got a lot bigger. We talked about where they live, what they eat, and decided after showing them to the rest of the famiy, it was a good idea to put them back in the lake. “We don’t want them to get dead, right Tootie?” That’s right.
As the girls finished eating their lunch one afternoon, I started up a game of I Spy. Playing this game with a beginner is hilarious. Miss Dolly scanned the world around her, stared at one object and said the colour out loud. Sometimes I’d play along and pretend I didn’t see where she was staring, other times I guessed it right away. “Wow, Tootie. You’re so good at this game.” Just the best.
We spent the rest of our week painting little toenails and building fairy sand castle gardens and making sand birthday cakes. One morning I walked out of my room onto the deck to find the two little girls playing in the sand below, the two-year-old jabbering away in her own little made-up language. When she spotted me, Miss Dolly ran up the stairs. “Morning, Tootie! Can we play I Spy?”
Later that night when the girls were in their jammies settling down for bed, Dolly climbed up on the couch and snuggled in with me. We were watching A Bug’s Life. She turned toward me and giggled, snuggling in a little closer. Then she began inspecting my face. “Is that an owie, Tootie?” she asked, pointing to a little scab on my chin. I said that it was just a little bug bite, but it didn’t hurt. She pointed to a red freckle on the left side of my forehead. “What about that?” Nah, that’s just a freckle. “Oh I see more freckles. On your nose. And over here.” She began pointing out all the freckles on my face. Then she took my hands and inspected them for freckles, too. “No freckles on your hands, Tootie!” She found freckles on my forearms, too.
We spent so much time that week playing together and making memories. But the ones that mean the most to me are the littlest ones. The way they peeked in my bedroom door in the morning to check if I was awake. The way Dolly snuggled close when she asked to play I Spy. The freckle counting.
I’m realizing that the moments that stick with me are always the tiny, sweet ones. Not the big, elaborate planned out memory-making events. But the quiet, unplanned little freckle counting moments. Those are the ones I wait for.