I want highlight reels of my life but not just the images—the feel, smell, taste, sound, and sights of years ago. Actually, I don’t really want the highlights, either. I want ordinary, run-of-the-mill memories to remind me of all the tiny moments that might be so easy to forget.

The first thing I would do would be to visit the smell of each of my newborn baby’s heads. How many hours I nuzzled with my babies, breathing in the intoxicating smell. There’s no smell like it in the world.

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I want to remember how it felt the first time my husband tentatively grabbed my fingers, then held my hand. I want to remember the way he nervously asked me on a date.

I want to remember the very first time I heard him say, “I love you.”

I want to remember the sounds of my babies laughing, the way they danced wearing just a diaper, especially when we needed them to go to bed. The way they ran to greet me at the door. I want to see the way the big brothers doted on the little brothers. The day the three brothers crowded around their tiny sister at the hospital.

I think I’d even want to hear the sounds of their tantrums—because now I know those tantrums were necessary. They were part of them learning to use their voice and assert power over the world.

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I want to remember the day I was in bed with a migraine, and sweet 2-year-old Clark crept into my room—his little bare feet padding along on the hardwood floor—and brought me a cheese sandwich to make me feel better. He explained he couldn’t reach the cheese in the refrigerator, so he handed me two pieces of bread—a cheeseless, cheese sandwich. I want to hear his sweet voice, smell the boy smell of his tousled sandy brown hair. I want to hear all the alternate pronunciations he had for certain words. Telitopter. Medsuwin. Catpicker. Moonie.

Ben’s raspy voice.

Reese’s belly laugh.

Eva’s singing voice, much like it is now, only in her cartoony baby voice with made-up syllables.

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I want to remember all those moments I’ve forgotten because I was too tired, too distracted, too upset, or depressed.

There were a lot of those moments.

And if I’m really getting greedy, I want to be able to whisper into the ear of my younger self. All those times I felt I was getting it all wrong, the times I wondered if I wasn’t stacking up to the other mothers and wives. The times I regretted staying home, thinking I was missing out on a career. I would whisper words of encouragement to my younger self. I’d tell her to keep going. To trust her gut. I’d tell her she’s doing the best she can. I’d tell her to slow down, to write more, to keep these memories safe, close to her heart.

Carol Pavlik

Carol Pavlik has four children who are growing up at the same rate as everyone else’s children—too fast. By day, she writes and edits for the marketing department of her favorite public library; by night, she blogs about downsizing, living an intentional life, and reducing stress at Unwanting.com. She publishes a weekly newsletter, The Cozy Cottage Chronicles.