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The right moment

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Tentative Steps


I knew she would come. Just a matter of time—the right moment, a baby girl—and I would let the last of the baby clothes go.

Ruth Alice, welcome to the world. We hope you like the sunhats, especially.

My younger daughter helps me sort through the onesies, the coveralls, the tiny dresses, worn soft from many washings.

“I sort of remember this one,” she says, holding up a yellow floral romper that she could not, possibly, recall wearing.

But a memory of her older sister, at three months old, comes to mind. I recall my relief—after the fourth or fifth diaper change of whichever anymorning it was of all the anymornings—that this particular flowered romper was clean and ready to go. I remember fitting her pale, newly chubby legs into the garment. I lay her back on the changing pad to watch her, content, kicking idly, the summer sun diffusing through her cream curtains.

I remember the old feeling, a feeling that is far more elusive now: this is the meaning of bountiful.

“Don’t cry, Mommy,” my younger daughter says, fetching me from a time when and where she was not, as sometimes I am certain she was sent to do, again and again. “I’m sure I loved it then.”

A long while ago, I thought three would be perfect, just the right number, really. Three kids, maybe all three girls. Yes, that sounded about right, for a time. We did not agree, he and I, on three. So two it was, and two it became.

When we found out our younger one was going to be a girl, I could not contain my thrill. Two girls! I had won the jackpot, really.

The girls like to remind me that, had I had boys, I would have loved them just as much. Yes, I tell them, but maybe not their clothes, not as much.

Daughter #2 slides the lion booties onto her 7-year-old feet. She dons the polka-dot knit hat, coos over the lavender gingham sunhat, hugs me, then skips (for she does skip, she is one of those little girls, in perpetual skippage) away to play. I regard the table of tiny clothes. I marvel, I wince. How many stories they hold, and no one to tell. I need to let go of the notion that all stories need somewhere to go, a place to be told.

In the end: These are simply baby clothes, standard, well-loved, well-cared-for. Ruth Alice will create new stories that correspond with the satin size tags: newborn to 3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, and eventually, the six-month big step of 12-18 months, an age of which Ruth Alice’s parents can not yet possibly imagine.

The girls and I deliver the clothes to Ruth Alice. My daughters gasp at how very small she seems, yet how substantial she feels in their arms. Ruth Alice is perfect and utterly without need or want, just sleepily taking in the light and sound around her. I want, predictably, for a moment to be Ruth Alice, to start again in some sunlit anymorning, of some anysummer.

Clothes delivered, Ruth Alice in need of a diaper change: we leave. An afternoon at the movie theatre, something Ruth Alice will need a few more years to appreciate fully.

When we return home, I fold the few garments that remain on the kitchen table, the few I’ve decided to keep, because the stories asked me to. I tuck them away for my own safekeeping, in case anyone should want a story, anysomewhere down the line.

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10 comments so far...

  • Rummaging in the basement yesterday I saw, lovingly encased in plastic protectors, the few clothes that couldn’t be given away. The pangs do start anew.

    Mich  |  July 6th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  • So beautiful.

    keryn  |  July 6th, 2011 at 6:11 pm

  • I too have a shoe box full of my favorites of my little girls first clothes. An impossibly small pink thermal pajama, for my pre-mie girl, who has gone from -6 weeks to 15, from 3 lbs 5 oz to 6ft tall in a blink of an eye.

    Yvonne  |  July 6th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

  • Brilliant, Jenn, as always. You are a true word artist, and an amazing mother.

    Steve Clem  |  July 7th, 2011 at 12:16 am

  • The parting is bittersweet, but so beautifully reflected upon here. Ruth Alice and her parents are, I’m sure, grateful, as are we all, for the gifts you give to the world around you.

    Rose  |  July 7th, 2011 at 10:23 am

  • Beautifully written. I know how hard this was for you but you have the rare gift of turning pain into beautiful and poignant prose. Ruth Alice will bring new life to the old clothes, I’m sure.

    The Mater  |  July 7th, 2011 at 10:50 am

  • beautiful

    Momsy  |  July 7th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

  • GAH,

    Crash goes my heart…

    Mrs. Q.  |  July 7th, 2011 at 9:46 pm

  • “because the stories asked me to.” Lovely.

    KristenM  |  July 8th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

  • I wanted to be one of those moms who made a quilt out of much loved baby clothes, but knowing that would never happen I sent them on their way. I kept a few, especially outfits featured in favorite photos, for my girls to someday memory cross reference.

    Kip  |  July 30th, 2011 at 11:53 am