I can still remember where I sat in my AP English class my senior year in high school. Even though we didn’t have teacher-assigned seats, we assigned ourselves seats. And we sat there. Every day.
Even though I haven’t lived there in more than eight years, taking Gene Snyder Freeway (or Watterson Expressway) to I-71 North to Exit 17 to my childhood home is like tracing the lines on the back of my hand. It’s a route I can do without thinking about. My car just goes. And it’s not even the car I drove in 2000. Or the 1987 hatch-back Ford Mustang on which I started driving home on my own.
Now I’m watching my 19-month-old daughter develop habits. At first I was surprised that she remembered details of our days. But then I remembered where I sat in AP English and started tracing the roads home.
Any time we walk in the door, Cate says “off,” pointing to her coat. She stands by the coat rack, waiting for me to unzip her jacket. Then when Greg comes home from work, she directs him to the coat rack. “Off. Off.” He takes his coat off.
When it’s time for bed, Cate gets her blanket, says “bear,” then “rock,” all while moving toward the rocking chair in her room. Sometimes she holds the bear. Sometimes the bear is already in the bed. Either way, she settles in our arms (I put her down for naps; Greg usually has bedtime duty.) and we rock. She’ll say “song,” because that’s part of the routine. Greg usually sings “You Are My Sunshine” and I usually sing “I Love My Catherine.”
If Cate’s shoes are off, she wants her socks off too. When I put socks on her in the morning, she wants her shoes on too. And she knows after I get her dressed in the morning that I’m going to fix her hair next. She’ll say “hair” and start messing with it.
These aren’t big things, but they are things that happen every day. There are so many others that fill my heart with joy because this is my life. Our life. And she remembers. She even learns the words that go with these habits.
One day she’ll relive her childhood memories in her mind, tracing them with familiarity, like the palm of her hand. Probably not these. But ones that will be built from these.