Little pieces of cotton

My dear friend from college is having twin boys this fall. So I picked through the trash bags and plastic bins of outgrown baby clothes I've squirrelled away in our basement, finding every stitch of clothing that might be reasonably worn by boys.

It all fits in a large duffle bag, which will fly with us to Vermont tomorrow so I can hand deliver them to her in Western Massachusetts. This feels good and right. I can't wait to see her babies in these clothes.

Two other good friends had baby girls in the past year. Earlier in the week, I sent off a box to each of them, filled with gently used, and gently wept over, baby girl clothes.

But there's all this left.

I safely stashed a few dozen of my very favorite pieces of clothing in a bin aptly titled "sentimental baby clothes". It is close to breaking, as it is stuffed beyond reason.

I like to picture these clothes being worn by a granddaughter one day. I imagine my girls as adults, seeing these clothes, feeling them, knowing that I cherished them in these clothes so much that my love is embedded in every cotton fiber.

There's another stash of baby clothes that I can't seem to part with despite their noticeable stains and worn knees. I have set them aside with the idea of making the spit-up free stretches into quilts. (I honestly don't know how I feel about "baby clothes quilts". I can't imagine my kids really wanting to sleep under one past the age of ...8? So am I doomed to store them for even longer, because not only will I have saved the precious clothes but I'll have spent copious amounts of time and/or money making a quilt out of them?)

I know there are baby girls out there who could use these clothes, worn knees or not. I am researching which local charities are best suited to take them.

I just need to get past this stumbling block: getting rid of my girls' baby clothes feels like giving away tiny pieces of my love for them.

Of course, I know my love isn't so easily disposed of and I also know this isn't really about baby clothes. It's about saying goodbye to mothering babies.

These clothes, even the stained ones, even the ones that I didn't like much in the first place, immediately bring back the feeling of a little warm body nestled against me in a sling. Each cotton onesie reminds me of wrestling with snaps during diaper changes; I can almost feel the pudgy thighs that depressed like risen dough with the tip of a finger.

These memories come flooding back as I finger the cotton dresses of their babyhood and I want to grasp those moments closer, just one more time.

A friend once advised me to clean up puke by convincing myself that it was cat food. It's just cat food is the mantra I've said every time our girls have had a stomach bug. It helps me divorce myself from my present reality just enough to do what needs to be done.

I tried a similar mantra today, folding a onesie and putting it in a trash bag. This isn't my love. This isn't my girls. This isn't their babyhood.

It's just a little piece of cotton.


Hillary said...

It doesn't help that they just keep getting bigger, does it?

Also, here's my take on baby clothes quilts: They aren't to keep the kids snuggly and warm. They're to throw over yourself when the kids are gone.

Kmcdente said...

My grandmother made me a quilt with my dad's clothes as a kid. Sadly a lot are polyester because she wanted the quilt to be durable. I never really bonded with the aesthetic but the quilt has HUGE sentimental value for me. But, on a whim I put it on M's bed when she got her big girl bed. She loves it and it is so hers it is fun for me to see the new life of this quilt. I say quilt away!

Nik-Nak said...

I find that I have a hard time getting rid of my girl's to small clothes but only because I keep thinking, "What if I have another girl? Won't I have wished I had kept them?"
But then consignment sale time rolls around and thoughts of $300 extra dollars starts flitting through my head and suddenly it's not such a big deal.
So why am I not more attached to my daughter's clothes? Are some just more sentimental than others? It's a mystery.

Sarah said...

Oh my, it's so timely, this post. Just this morning I was sorting through boxes of Eli and Jamie's outgrown baby clothes to give to a young girl I know, husband-less and also mostly family-less, and due with a boy very near Jameson's first birthday, so all his old stuff will fit her boy perfectly. I am SO happy to give them to her, to imagine her pleasure in having plenty of nice things in which to dress her son. And yet I was very near tears, and kept snatching things back from the pile, thinking, "Oh, but this one, this one is so HIM, I have to keep this one!"

grammalouie said...

Oh God, I just remembered I have a box in my attic that has been there for thirty-something years. Yikes! And your children have not really benefited from it. Everything seemed so out of style and any nearly-invisible stains grew to great, big stains over the years. Why did I save these? Because each piece reminded me of you and your brother when you were small. Anything handmade I saved and some others could be worn by that large doll I bought that could wear size 2T clothes. There's no lesson here, trust me. Nothing that I would have done differently or anything like that. It's just that we are mothers with memories. And sometimes sentimental too. Not necessarily a bad thing but it does contribute to the mess that's currently in my attic.

Doing My Best said...

I'm crying over baby clothes at my house too =(.

Gina said...

22 weeks pregnant with a girl after two boys, I have been going through the boys' old clothes sorting them into "will work for a girl", "give away", and "keep for sentimental value/remote possibility of 4th child". And I can't stop crying every damn time I open up a new box of clothes...I am sad that the little baby phase of my life is coming to a close - and the new baby isn't even born yet!

And I agree with Hillary above, the baby clothes quilt is for you - not necessarily for the girls. I say go for it.

parkingathome said...

Sentimental baby clothes may indeed mean something. There was this little tarzan outfit that my oldest brother wore for pictures at three months old, 40 some-odd years ago. My son, the oldest of the youngest, wore the same outfit, old and raggedy, but with much significance and giggles over the silliness.

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