Sunday, June 12, 2011

Memory Lane.

Sitting on a folding chair, I am bent over, pawing my way through to the bottom of a plastic tote bin. The bin is a swirl of pink and yellow and white fabric, all crashing gently into one another. After a few seconds, I stop: I have found a fleecey, soft pink shirt with a heart embroidered on it, lined with sweet pink floral cotton. I catch my breath for a second and allow myself to go back the many years since Michaela has worn this shirt. What do I remember? How big was she when she wore it? Where did we go wearing it? Do I have any pictures of her in this particular shirt? What about Jenna? Do I have any mental snapshots of her wearing this shirt? Any memories attached to Jenna wearing it?

And even bigger questions come out... how did it feel to hold my girls when they were this small? What did they smell like? How heavy did they feel? Could they smile? Laugh? Walk? Talk?

I am overwhelmed by how far away it feels since my big girl wore these little clothes.

It was time to go through these bins, these Holders of Memories, and let them go. Let someone else use this perfectly good clothing and make their own memories in it. Get it out of my basement so I can make room for new things.

We had a garage sale on Friday and the main purpose was to get rid of all the clothes Michaela, Jenna and Alec have accumulated in the last nine and a half years. Bin after bin, box after box lined my driveway, waiting for thrify and eager grandmothers to go through and buy. After it was all done, I was exhausted from moving the boxes up from the basement, out onto the driveway and back into the garage; while that was physically tiring, I think my main source of exhaustion was the emotional letting go I had to do as I watched people- strangers, even!- walk away with bags full of my babies' childhoods.

My favorite customer of the day was a young woman who was pregnant and due in October with her first baby, a girl. She went through box after box, holding items up to show her amused and very patient husband, and kept oohing and ahhing over her finds. I watched her thoughtfully count out months of sizes- will it be winter when the baby wears 6 month sized clothing?- and thought of my own three attempts to guess the baby's size by season. She seemed to be flush with the excitement that I remember so clearly with each of my pregnancies, the excitement that I will really miss never experiencing again. I was happy that she left with a big bag full of some of my own favorite sleepers and onesies, knowing that most likely she will show her own mom the things she got and will lovingly wash them, fold them and put them away for her own baby to wear.

I did save some things, though... three bins were designated, one for each child, as the Forever bins. Items can go in that bin and be saved, but only what fits in that one bin. For years I have thought about eventually making a quilt with the fabrics of the clothing I have saved, one for each child, hanging that quilt up on some type of Hall of Fame Wall in my house, throwing up some of my favorite pictures, and after my babies have flown the coop, rocking away my sorrow, staring at the quilts and pictures, and remembering.

I am overwhelmed by how far away it feels since my big girl wore these little clothes.

After the sale was over, Dan asked what we were going to do with the leftovers. I knew we had to make a clean break and not bring those items back into the basement. I boxed up the rest of the clothes and brought it all to Goodwill. It was very hard to hand those boxes over, knowing that only a fraction of the items would really ever be worn again, and most of it would be junked and bundled for the cotton. Only a fraction would be washed, folded and pulled down over a giggling head or pulled up over soft, papery diapers. Only a fraction would be photographed on another child. It was really hard. As I was bringing the last of the nine boxes in, someone was already starting to sort through the items in the first box, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman hold up a Dora the Explorer nightgown that both my girls wore countless times, look it over and flick it into a huge bin, cast aside. I wish I hadn't seen that. Better to imagine that it all went to a good home.

So, like much of parenthood, it is all about growth. And stretching your emotional boundaries. And knowing what you can control and what you can't. And moving forward, always moving forward. And making room for the new stuff. And cherishing the past while embracing the future with gusto. And understanding that raising children completely changes your concept of time: sometimes it flies by, sometimes it crawls, and years seem both like minutes and decades.

But I am still overwhelmed by how far away it feels since my big girl wore these little clothes.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said, my daughter. The sale was exhausting but necessary and, at times, fun. Just think of all that ROOM in the basements of BOTH our homes. Love, Mom

Winterhoff Family said...

This post made me cry. It was written so beautifully, and captures my feelings about how quickly my babies are growing, and my attachment to their clothes. I'll have to bookmark this one to save and re-read when I need to go through my bins of love, too. XOXO

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, your insights are so authentic and wonder we love your crystalizes the memories and reactions we all recognize but haven't been able to put into such eloquent words! Love, LW

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, beautifully and eloquently written and should be a whole chapter in the book I hope you write one day. You have such love for your babies and share insight into our emotions and love. Thank you for sharing. It touched my heart deeply as I know we all experience these emotions as we watch our babies grow and see our grandchildren grow. Time is fleeting. Love you and thank you.