Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sorting memories into bins

Bins1Have you ever allocated a morning to complete a project only to find that you needed the entire day instead? That was me today.

I spent over four freakin’ hours sorting my daughters’ clothes. Yes, four. Hours.

I knew it would be a big project, so I was prepared to dedicate the morning to the task, but when Thumper’s naptime came, and I was only halfway done, I knew I had to kiss that afternoon sunshine goodbye. It was do or die time. (I can be a tad dramatic.)

When Thumper moved into her sister’s room, we only moved the crib and kept her clothes in our bedroom. There were many bins with clothes that ranged in size, from 6 months to 18 months, and seasons. And recently, after seeing regular leggings looking like capris on Little Miss, we went back-to-school shopping for her and stuffed the new purchases into the dresser along with the old.

Clearly, we had some sorting and organizing to do. But four hours??! Well, at least it was a fruitful day. As a result, I had:
- All of Thumper’s clothes out of our bedroom (but still waiting to get into her dresser, so really this would have taken five hours if I had that time to spare)
- Two bins of hand-me-downs from Little Miss to Thumper, one marked 2T, warm weather, and the other, 2T, cold weather
- One bin marked 4T, Spring 2013
- One bin saved for a friend
- One trash bag full of clothes for donation
- Little Miss’ clothes from this season neatly arranged in her dresser drawers (I give it a week before they’re all disheveled again)
- Put on and took off about five different outfits on Thumper, who had wanted to try some of the things she found in the bins; sometimes I had to put one outfit on top of another because she refused to remove the first layer (yes, folks, she has learned to say the word, “No!”)

So there. Over four hours of my life I would never get back again.

But, I have to admit, it wasn’t all that awful. Sorting through Little Miss’ clothes, I had the chance to revisit some of my favorite moments again, just by looking at an outfit. Seeing some of them, I had a visceral experience of a past that was tucked away in the little nooks and crannies of my brain.


Just one glimpse of this dress, and I saw my firstborn walking into the hospital room to meet her little sister for the first time. Little Miss brought cupcakes as a celebration of Thumper’s arrival, and as much as she was glad to meet Thumper, she was perhaps slightly more enthused about the amount of chocolate on her cupcake. (There was a lot.)


When I saw this dress, I "aww’d” a little. I have a thing for plaid, and I loved this on Little Miss. I also remember that this was what she wore the first time she experienced the Crowne Fountain at Millennium Park. This water nymph of mine was soaked and deliriously happy. I was excited that Thumper would have the chance to wear this someday and perhaps create her own unforgettable moment with it. It’s now in her dresser, waiting for the right occasion. Probably not the fountain this time, seeing as it’ll be cold for the next, oh, eight months or so, here in lovely Chicago.



Then I found this outfit and shuddered a little. I remember Little Miss in this when we were in D.C. – it was a great trip, but she was so full of energy that it wore us out. That was the time we discovered that “relaxing” and “getaway” no longer belonged in the same sentence together – not when we have kids in tow.

That was also the time we realized that the most telling sign of Little Miss’ fatigue was when she sang her ABC’s, back to back to back to back to back. Until she ran out of steam. If you were on the Moonlight Trolley Tour with us that night – and you would remember us, I assure you - I am so, so sorry. 

Finally, I moved on to Thumper’s clothes, and a different sort of pang hit me. Apart from nostalgia, I was also lamenting the disappearance of a baby from this house as I packed the onesies from her first year away into a bin. I realized that there would never be another from our house who would ever wear those again.

A few of the outfits I adored were passed down from Little Miss, and knowing that both girls grew in and then out of them, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with them.

Especially this one:


Sure, it’s a little worn, but when it’s something this precious, it could never look weathered to me. Only well loved.

I remember Little Miss wearing this when she first felt the sand under her feet. Before that, she never wanted to be on the beach without her shoes. That day, we removed her shoes after some coaxing, and she tentatively took her steps as if she was learning to walk again. That was before we moved closer to the beach, and now she can’t wait to be buried in the sand, let alone barefoot run on it. 


I also remember Thumper prancing in this garment with unsteady feet after she first started walking on her own. So eager. So proud. So bruised.


Such great memories. Such wonderful girls. It’s comforting to know that there would be more of these to come, and clothes will not be the only mementoes of these moments I want filed away under, “never, ever forget”.

Without such aids, whether visual or otherwise, to help conjure long forgotten memories back to life, I fear that I would lose them altogether. I have thousands of pictures of my girls, but not many contain the breadth and depth of emotion of something as tangible as a dress or a blankie.

Perhaps that is why, despite the myriad stains on the front, despite the fraying edges, I have this last dress stashed away just for myself, so that when I want to - need to - remember, I can.