Saturday, October 18, 2014

my heart in cloth

four boys, one girl. that's the line up that makes up my family. my precious daughter is my second born and, while i love my sweet boys to distraction, i always thought i would have one more daughter in the mix. each new pregnancy, i would look at the tubs full of baby clothes in the rafters of my garage, pink tubs on one side, blue ones on the other and i would wonder, and hope. each year that went by brought another beautiful boy. i’m grateful, truly grateful for my army of little men but, until recently, i couldn’t bear the thought of parting with those pink tubs. 

those tubs were full of promise, of hopes, of memories. they were full of all my wishes for daughters that never came. they are full of the questions, “was that one early miscarriage a baby girl? would that baby have been the one? if i had one more, would that one be a girl?” those tubs are full of precious moments of my daughter’s life that went by much too fast. they are unending emotions stored in cheap plastic and they were impossible for me to give away.

each consignment sale that came along, i would open the tubs, pull out some clothes, and then hastily put the tubs away. it was impossible for me to close the door on all those wishes and memories. and so, i waited for another year, another year, another baby, another year. 

we have decided we are done having kids. we are closing the door on diaper duty, bottles and cribs. we are embracing the next chapter of our lives and those pink tubs were still staring at me. my husband would gently suggest that it was maybe time to find a place for all those beautiful clothes, to make some room in the garage, to close that door. still, it was too difficult.

a few months ago a friend of mine had his first daughter…and i did the impossible. i packed up bags of baby girl clothes and drove them to a church service where i could find him and his wife. piece by piece i showed them what they were getting. i wanted to say, “this is the pair of pajamas she was wearing when she took her first step. this is the dress she wore for her first easter. these are the pants she learned how to crawl in. she said ‘mama’ for they first time wearing this shirt. i never even had a chance to take her picture in this. i thought i would be able to use these another time.” i wanted to somehow communicate that these weren’t just clothes, these were my memories and hopes held in plastic bags. i wanted them to know the weight of those simple items of clothing but i kept my mouth closed. i handed a piece of my heart over in grocery bags and i walked away…and i cried all the way home. 

by the time i got home i had pulled myself together. i hugged my daughter and my sweet boys and i smiled. i was so proud of myself that i had taken that step forward, that step toward moving on. it was a piece of letting go.

a couple of weeks ago, as i was scrolling through facebook, a picture caught my eye. there among the fall pictures sat an image of a sweet baby girl in an apple dress and onesie that i knew well. she was happy and smiling and absolutely precious and, in that moment, those clothes became more. they were not just my memories in cloth form, they were the memories for someone else. that is the dress that baby wore to her first trip to pick apples. those are pictures that family will look back on and smile. that dress will fill another photo book, another picture frame, another family’s memories. there is healing in that moment, in saying goodbye to tangible things that hold intangible memories.

in reality, i know that the clothes don’t matter, that they don’t hold the key to the memories or the loss of time. still, i never realized how difficult it would be to let those go…or the comfort that would come in seeing them alive in the heart of someone else. and so, i’ll do it again. i’ll give away clothes, i’ll refrain from telling stories, and i’ll wait to see pictures of my heart in cloth become memories for someone else.

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