23 November, 2010

My Tiny Babies

They were never small, either one of them. My kids have always been on the long/tall side, and while skinny compared to the rest of the family, they are both strong and healthy. They have grown a lot this year, both emotionally and physically. The big trip gave us a nice grounding moment before the school year shook us by its tail, and this week of Thanksgiving will be another touchstone to remind us of how wonderful it is to be a part of our family.

I've been purging the house. It's eight years overdue. We had a lot of things to begin with, then we had Jake and I think I just never got rid of anything that was still useful ever again. I have too many sheets, towels and pillow cases, hundreds and hundreds of books, more shoes than Imelda. I went through 13 boxes/plastic bins filled with my children's clothing, and more than two bins of their shoes shoes. I sorted them all by size first, then called friends so they could place their orders. One family wanted 2T warm clothes only, and possibly some size 8 shoes. I pulled out the next sizes for my sister's boys, the items that Princess Lucy won't wear because it looks "too much like boys." (She does love camo though!). Then I went through again quickly and picked out things from each bin that had I had little memory of a kid wearing it, or at least I knew I wasn't emotionally attached. This sounds ridiculous even as I write it. Who gets attached to a cheap Hawaiian shirt or a blue dress with apples all over it?

I can remember something about almost every single item in those 16 crates. I can remember that Jake wore the beige sweater with the little red zipper on the Golden Gate bridge. I took a picture of him, and I was so scared his little ataxic body was going to lunge and leap over the four foot barrier and land in front of a car or worse, go over the side of the bridge. The stripey sweater he wore in Montana, the last time we went vacationing with those close family friends before our marriages went in different directions. Jake got caught on the barbed-wire fence at the edge of the property. I made a new land speed record that day rushing over sage and dirt to get to him. By the time I screeched to a halt, he had slipped out of the sweater, calmly pulling his body down and out, leaving a striped scarecrow on the fence.

Lucy came home from the hospital in the pink onsie with snaps up the front, and monkeys printed on it. And the little blue and white dress with the duck embroidered on the front? Cheezy I know, but she  wore it on her first visit to feed some ducks at a nearby park. The multi-color sweater with the hood? I bought that the day the ultrasound revealed that Lucy was a girl (and then with the worst kind of buyer's remorse, I worried that I had somehow overstepped a boundary and had invited misfortune into our lives, jinxing everything.)

I remember buttoning and zipping and folding and maybe even ironing so many of those tiny clothes...but only as I look at them again. I think this is how my brain works: an event occurs, a good thing, a bad thing, any thing, and I remember the event for a very short amount of time. But apparently I really do remember it because it gets stored in a long-term memory section of my brain, only to be released again when I see the sweater, the street sign, the wedding invitation, the pen, the shoes. I use objects as external hard drives. If I don't see the object, I'm afraid all those memories will be gone.  Now I know I sound like a crazy person.

There's another thing happening as I clean out all of these things. I get closer to the corner of the closet with the baby crib.

Baby. Crib.

It is beautiful. Jake stayed in it until he was too tall and I was afraid he would tip over the rails, and Lucy jumped out the day before her first birthday, prompting a hasty trip to IKEA. We packed up the crib and put it in Jake's closet.

Every time I open Jake's closet door I have a flood of memories looking at those beautiful wood slats; Jake finally pulling to a stand in his sunny bedroom with yellow walls, when we thought he never would, and Lucy jumping up and down yelling MAMAMAMAMAMAMA to get out of bed. I remember Descartes and I putting that crib together, and arranging the room before Jake was born.

Now getting rid of that crib would hardly remove all of the beautiful memories I have of my children as tiny babies but there is something keeping me from passing it on to the next family. At least I thought there was; I thought that our family was not complete without another child.

This whole time, I've had this crib in the closet, thinking that we would change our minds and have another baby. Getting pregnant with Lucy was a big decision after Jake, and though we thought we would have three or four children, I've realized (after some long discussions) that I am not really missing having another person in our family, and I cannot actually imagine where or how another child would fit, into my heart, or our home, or our schedule. I just don't have a hollow any more, and I know I used to feel that ache, as if we were not complete--but my heart is full now. And we are whole, and happy and as hard as it feels some days, we are on track. 


What I am wanting, what I confused with wanting another child, is that idea of fresh and new, and possibility. It's that whole hope thing again...and while we're at it, I want that fearless part of me back. The woman who was carrying a perfect child and made sure we bought a house near the best elementary school. The woman who read Thoreau, and C.S. Lewis to put that beautiful boy to sleep at night. The woman I was before I broke my leg on the front stairs and had to ask for help, really, really ask for help for the first time in my life. I am trying to get some more pieces of that woman back, and somehow I mixed that up with having another baby, because while I do like myself now, I really did like the woman I was then too--she was awesome, and she knew it.
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