Recycling Memories

A neighbor with two little girls is expecting a boy. Knowing we wanted to declutter a bit of our attic, I offered that she take what she wanted of our stuff. She left this morning with a slew of my boys’ clothes to outfit her little one. I thought I’d be more sad to see them go. Strangely, the parting was not hard. Certainly the sorting had been nostalgic as I prepared for her visit – this was our first’s first outing outfit, I remember the epic blowout at my brother-in-law’s house in that one, I loved this particular sleeper on both boys – but the letting go was strangely un-momentous.

Our family is complete. We’ve decided we are done. Although the smallness of the clothes I folded away tugged a bit at my heart and the what ifs of a possible third, I am quite content with not having to change a diaper or endure the sleepless nights or packing diaper bags filled with half our house just to make it through the contingencies of all that could happen during a small trip to the grocery store (a spit up, a poop, a need for snacks, a need for a distraction, a need to be worn instead of riding in the buggy…). I am thrilled to hold a baby, take in that intoxicating smell and then hand it back.

And so the clothes left, the rest headed to donation centers and I’m totally okay with it.

On the other hand, in our attic reorg, I discovered a bag full of my stuffed animals. The ones I slept with through my elementary school years or souvenirs from a family vacation. My parents had bagged them up for me when they moved out of my childhood home and they have simply been moved from one closet to another to our attic until I simply forgot about them. I took them out and remembered each story, telling the boys that this yellow bunny was the first gift my daddy gave me as a baby, that I bit off this raccoon’s nose as a toddler, that I slept with this gray bunny until I was in the fourth grade. We washed and dried them and now they are part of the boys’ collection. They are being played with again and loved on and snuggled under covers. I imagine their little Velveteen Rabbit smiles under the stitched-on expressions and find contentment in passing on a bit of my childhood to this new generation.

My "Andre" the seal from childhood. T slept with him last night.

My “Andre” the seal from childhood. T slept with him last night.

Perhaps the clothes didn’t hold the same memories. Or rather, the clothes held memories for me, memories of a babyhood that was so much more than the outfits they wore. I can’t give away the true memories – the way a song always soothed T in the witching hours of his infancy, B’s bright baby eyes tracking his big brother, the snuggles, the giggles, the tears – those are mine. But my children will have no memory of what they wore each Christmas or which pajamas were their favorites at a year old.

The clothes won’t create new memories for my kids, but passing on these animals stuffed with so many of my memories will create a new generation of memories to be passed along. Stories to be told, nightmares to soothe, bedtime story snuggles. Then, one day, they will be packed up into another box, passed from closet to closet to attic until perhaps, one of my boys will open it up, surprised and tell my grandchildren about the dalmatian puppy that their grandma got at Disney World and that he pretended was a firehouse dog when he and their uncle played hours and hours of rescue team.

So the clothes are gone. The stuffed animals staying. Now, if I could just figure out what to do with the rest of the stuff up there.

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