“It’s beautiful”

Some moments define us—define a place and time, who we are to ourselves and to each other, what we are about. And those moments we hang onto desperately, because they come unexpectedly, they are so fleeting, and if lost, we lose a part of who we are with them.

In the course of planning out my writing for the night, I was considering how many memories would slip away over the course of a very long life, and realized how many of them would be memories that mattered—that were defining. How much we would lose if we lost them.

And a memory of my own came sharply and starkly to mind. My youngest child was three, and he had been playing with one of those plastic toy stethoscopes that are, frankly, useless. I had a real stethoscope, and I thought he might like to hear through one that worked. So I put the softest earpieces on it, and called him over. I fit the earpieces into his ears, and held the stethoscope bell to his heart, and let him listen. He grinned at me as I said, “That’s your heart.”

I then put the bell of the scope over my own heart, and said, “That’s my heart.”

He stood there, transfixed, an expression creeping over his face that brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. I watched him, wondering at the serious look in his eyes, and after what seemed a very long time, he said, simply, “It’s beautiful.”

Three years old. He was hearing the music that had been his first symphony, the sound of his existence before there was light or air, which had been echoed again and again while I nursed him.

I had never heard him say those two words about anything before. Thinking back over our eleven years together so far, I cannot remember ever having heard him say them since.

They were, simply, his words for that moment—for the two of us and who we had been to each other before we saw each other’s faces. Who we were right then.

How we see the world changes in these defining moments, and it never goes back to the way it was before. For me, forever more, the words “It’s beautiful” will conjure the face of my three-year-old son, wide-eyed and motionless, leaning just a bit forward, listening via an old blue stethoscope to the beating of my heart.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

10 comments… add one
  • Glynis Smy Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:14

    That was beautiful, thanks for sharing.

  • Cathy Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:49

    I always remember a quote from the replicant in Blade Runner as he as he is finally dying and in that instant, as he recalls his life, it has become very precious to him, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” Memories are what make us human. Exquisite memory, Holly. Thank you.

  • megan Jun 15, 2009 @ 20:21

    goosebumps

  • Rohi Shetty Jun 15, 2009 @ 11:32

    Thanks, Holly. Often I tend to dwell on painful memories. Your post has reminded me that I have innumerable happy memories that can enrich my life again and again.

  • Sherri Jun 15, 2009 @ 11:28

    That is beautiful. I remember my mother doing the same thing with me…it’s one of my earliest memories. Of course, I don’t remember if I said anything at the time. Time to talk to Mom.

  • Texanne Jun 15, 2009 @ 2:27

    Lovely memory, Holly. And, yea verily, Craig. I have seen how memory slips and contorts–modified not only by other real memories, but by TV shows and movies. Everyone should keep diaries. Otherwise, things get so mixed up and forgotten.

  • Anders Jun 15, 2009 @ 1:56

    I’m teary-eyed. Thank you.

  • Craig A. Eddy Jun 15, 2009 @ 1:43

    I’ve noted, too, that sometimes the strangest things can regenerate a memory. Thinking about a subject that is close to an attitude of a relative or friend, or about an attitude that suddenly you remember a relative or friend expressing by word or deed.

    I’ve also noticed that memories can edit themselves, or be edited by our experiences since the events happened. My wife says that memories never really disappear, but are simply buried by the mass of new memories. I think she’s right in a way, but not necessarily completely. I think new experiences and memories can cause old ones to be modified. So, when you get a clear memory, write it down so you can refresh it, occasionally.

  • Bonne Friesen Jun 14, 2009 @ 23:31

    What an exquisite memory. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Maggie Jun 14, 2009 @ 22:54

    These are amazing thoughts, Holly. I had thought about losing memories before, but…not like that. Not like you have. You have given me a new perspective.

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