These are the things I must remember. I write them down, because I can not take photographs of them. They disappear into the past so quickly, and they can't ever be recaptured. They are the parts of parenting no one ever tells you about, because they can't really be explained. They are the things that fill your heart when you think of them, both because you are so blessed to have experienced them and because you are so heartbroken that you won't ever get to relive them. These are the things that can't be captured, that slip through my fingers like water, leaving only the residue of memory.
These are the things I must remember.
How small my son's hands are in mine, the fineness of fingers, the thin bones, the softness of their skin. The trust of that little hand, to be held and led. The feeling of walking with them, each holding a hand.
How they smell, right after a bath. How they smell when they need a bath. How they smell in the morning.
The taste of their tears, when I kiss their cheeks as they cry from a bump on the head, a disappointment, a bad dream, a reason I can't discern. The salt of it. The wet cheeks under my lips.
Their weight when they have fallen asleep on me. Heavy heads on my shoulders, limp arms hanging down, legs dangling. The warmth left behind on my skin when I have laid them down in bed and they roll over contentedly.
How sweaty and warm they feel when I take them out of bed in the morning or after a nap, hair damp, cheeks warm, sleep still in their eyes.
The way they ask the oddest questions and wait for the answer, trusting implicitly that I have it, and that it is true, because they do not understand or believe that there is anything I don't know.
The light in their faces when I have been away and they see me arrive back. The joy that I have returned, the happiness that their little world is right again. No one else in the world, not even my dog, has ever been so happy to see me, nor shown it so clearly.
The sounds they make in their sleep. Little snores, deep breaths, mumbles and coughs. The sounds that keep me awake at night both exhausted and relieved to know they are there, they are ok.
The way they climb on me, all knees and elbows, making me grunt in pain and surprise. The discomfort of it, the joy they take in it. The way they always want to be on me.
The sound of their feet running through the house. The soft footsteps in the early morning. The herd of elephants when they are ready to play.
Their arms around my neck hugging with abandon. The wet sloppiness of their awkward kisses.
The feeling of them both in the bed between Shaun and I early in the morning, squirming because they are ready to get up and yet happy to be where they are.
The way they display every emotion they feel with every part of their body, completely surrendered to the feeling, without restraint.
These are my children. They are growing and changing, and soon none of these things will exist. These things, these are what I must try to remember. These things I must lock in my memory somehow, and protect them from time's attempts to make them fade.
These things, I must remember, to know that they were real.