Over the weekend I got the bright idea to go through the baby clothes that my youngest daughter has outgrown, and box them up for the local op shop. I’d barely started on the first pile when I was swept with waves of nostalgia. “Remember this outfit?” I called out to my husband, who was rather sensibly avoiding the scene. “And this one?” “Can’t hear you!” he replied, disappearing into the garage.
Some of the baby clothes I’ve been hoarding belonged to my first two children, and were worn by all of them in turn. Some I kept from my first daughter because they were too cute to give away, but they turned out to be the wrong season for either of the other two so they’ve been in a box for (ahem) 13 years while I tried to figure out what to do with them. I’ve got the dress that my mother’s best friend bought for my first baby, which isn’t terribly fancy but I’ve never been able to part with it, because my mother’s best friend died, tragically too young, a few years ago. There are some dresses which are far too pretty to be practical, and were worn only for photos. And some favourite items — a T-shirt that looked particularly cute on my son, or the dresses I made for my oldest when she was at preschool and now my youngest is starting to outgrow.
I’ve got the tiny outfits each child came home from hospital in. Some singlets my best friend embroidered with cross-stitched ducks and hearts in colourful floss. A bodysuit that cartoonist Dylan Horrocks was supposed to sign, but he actually doodled an entire original cartoon on the front — and then, in a moment of exhausted, foggy baby brain, I washed it. (And cried when it came out all faded. I’ll never forget how upset I was. Still am.)
So many memories are attached to my kids’ little baby clothing. They’re items that were only worn for a brief time, but represent precious moments that we’ll never have again. My babies will never be that small and helpless and cuddly and portable again. They’ll never be babies again.
Half an hour into my chore, I gave up. It was just too hard to part with anything. But my mother is coming for an extended visit in September, so I’m going to leave it until she gets here. And then it’ll either go one of two ways: She’ll manage to persuade me to ruthlessly cull the baby clothes, or she’ll manage to persuade me to keep it all and to hell with Marie Kondo. Either way, I can blame her, and that’s what I’m really looking for — a way out of maturely, responsibly moving on. I just want to hold on to my children being little for a bit longer, please. Even if that means just holding on to their baby clothes while they grow up.
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