I’ve always adored cats. My parents tell me stories of my toddlerhood. How I’d pick up my neighbor’s cats, pet them, setting down bowls of milk or water. I have fuzzy memories. Gray cats, orange tabbies. One that stood outside our one story stucco home. I lifted her. She was heavy. She was white. I loved her. This is all I can honestly recall.
Fast forward through the decades. There is a gray cat with a black collar. Her name, the collar says, is Mary Jean. Waleed spotted her one day while out on a walk He squealed, waved and blew her kisses. Mary Jean visits daily. Sometimes sleeping on the sidewalk near our house, often resting in the shade in our backyard or digging through the mulch in the playground.
Yesterday, while playing in the yard, Waleed scrambled up the deck and into the kitchen where I was making patties for our evening dinner. Bowl! he shrieked. Waleed needs bowl of water please! I gave it to him and watched him make his way downstairs cradling the plastic bowl in his hands. He walked over to Mary Jean who sat like a patron at a restaurant and placed the bowl on the stone floor. The cat walked over and drank and Waleed pet her fur, and looked at me with a smile so wide you’d think nothing could possibly be better than this.
There is so much about me and who I am my parents will never fully know, but there is so much of my life and about me of which they are the only memory keepers. I realized that today as I watched him with the cat, teleported to memories so fuzzy that in that moment came into full focus. In that moment I saw in my son fragments of the child I once was.
He retells events now. Reciting what he did at nursery school, songs sung, games played. His memories are building at rapid pace, but I am still his memory keeper for the past and moments like today which will surely grow fuzzy with time. As I watched him run after the cat later, with the bowl of water, insisting she finish her plate, I laughed and wondered if one day he too will hand his own child a bowl of water and in that one flash moment see in full clarity what once was, transported back to this very moment today.
[For your child] you feel a love you know you will never be able to adequately explain or express to him, a love that flows one way, down the generations, not in reverse, and is understood and reciprocated only when time has made of a younger generation an older one– Mohsin Hamid