Monday, October 19, 2009

"Simplify, simplify."

Well, I cried today. Those who know me know that this is a rare occasion indeed.

Today, I went through my children's outgrown clothing. This was especially difficult considering the fact that just a short time ago, I had gone through my babies' things and had pared it down to what I thought was a reasonable amount. Yet, the drawers still spilled over, things vanished in the mass, and I could not find some items for the chaos. So I pushed on and tried again--compelled to eliminate these tiny tumors of cloth and thread from my new world of simplicity. It took a long time, and it was HARD. Every little piece of clothing was so closely tied to a sweet image in my mind of one of my children at an age and a stage of development that I will never again witness that it felt as though I was throwing those perfect film reels of memory out as well. I wept over a little car-covered Hawaiian shirt, a polka dot Easter dress, a cow-print jacket, a pair of dinosaur socks, a single tiny blue shoe made from an old sweater, the list goes on....

I chanted my mantra of "Simplify, simplify." I reminded myself of the environment I was cultivating; I told myself they were just things, that the memories themselves weren't tied to them; I thought of how Thoreau could flippantly toss his beautiful rocks out the window. And you know what? None of it made me feel any better. And I'm mad at stupid H.D. tonight, too.

Thoreau threw his lovely chunks of limestone out the window, and then he got to walk by those three hunks of stone every day on his morning and evening walks--so at least four times a day, even if that was all he left the house for. He could watch them gathering moss; he could stack them into a little rock snowman; he could see the birds perch upon them. And even then, they were rocks and nothing more. When I expel these sweet garments, they will be gone from me forever. Tonight I am angry at Thoreau for his lack of sentimentality, and the implication that we should all be as equally unsentimental. He had nothing to be sentimental about. He never understood the simultaneous joy and grief a mother feels at watching her children grow and learn and improve, witnessing moments as static as quicksilver slipping through her fingers. He never put a baby to bed in a pair of pajamas one night, only to find that the legs can no longer fit by morning. He didn't see the speed at which my children, my precious children, are steadily marching toward independence.....

And yet, I did it. I kept so little that it almost makes me sick to think about it: the outfits I brought them home in, their blessing clothing, heirloom pieces made by my mother, their first Sunday clothes. That's it. That's the list. The strange thing is that now, even though it hurts, they feel more special. It feels like these little articles of clothing are finally getting the attention they deserve. They aren't crammed into a drawer with hundreds of other pieces of clothing. I know where they are, and because I have cleared away the things that are far less important, I am able to treat these items--items I will pass on to my children's children--with more tender care.

Thoreau wrote, "Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them." I have nothing to show for my memories. Nothing about which to say, "Look, my kid was darling in this sweater." I do, however, have that indelible impression. I carry with me the constant reminder of my children and the stages they have grown through. Every time I look into their faces, I see the film reel playback of smiles and tears and laughter and triumphs that is being added to every minute I experience them in my lives.

So it was that tonight I shed a few tears. I held the little rags to my face and inhaled the sweetness of each piece, a little poem unto itself. I carefully retraced those indelible marks on my memory, and I set them free.

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