Last week my six year-old “baby” informed me that she has two loose teeth. She has also outgrown all her shoes this month. My emotional state was already quite fragile, but it was about to get worse. For some reason – even without energy and feeling like death, I started organizing our storage room. Try as it may, Lyme can’t completely take the crazy, organizational obsession out of my system. Lyme usually wins and I let things go, but this needed to be done. I had to find the girls spring and summer clothes, so I was on a mission. The room had not been touched since we moved last July – unless you count opening the door and launching things inside and quickly closing the door. It looked like a bomb went off in the huge, unheated space.
The room was freezing and sleet was hitting the windows as I worked, very slowly making my way through Rubbermaid tubs and boxes of mementos from mine and Ryan’s childhood, college papers, a pack and play, baby toys, and a double stroller. When did we stop using a stroller? I couldn’t remember the year or the moment but here it was, no longer needed. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of items a family of four can accumulate over a short time – even after significantly downsizing just three years ago. And yet, there it all was – a huge room packed full of memories, trash, and A LOT of stuff. As I was throwing things out and sorting the rest for donation, I found several bins full of baby girl clothes. These were the baby items I couldn’t part with as my girls outgrew them – the special newborn outfits, Christmas dresses, and patent leather shoes. I could feel the knot in my stomach getting tighter and the breath catching in my throat. Before I knew what was happening, I was crying… all over the baby clothes. These girls have grown up too fast for my liking and it hurts.
That was not the end of my little storage room cry fest… in the very back corner was a box that had not been unpacked after the last two moves. It was not labeled and I was a little giddy to find out what fun forgotten treasures were waiting for me as I peeked inside. I quickly saw why I had blocked out this box from my memory and the reason why it had gone unopened for over four years. Inside were neat little stacks of brand new baby boy clothes – some with the tags still attached. I also found my collection of Peter Rabbit items that I was planning on using for the “third baby’s” nursery. One simple, unassuming box contained everything that I had collected in preparation for my next child.
For some reason, I believed this imaginary baby was going to be a boy, so there were little white onesies with blue bunnies on the front, a tiny Cardinals baseball uniform, a Mavericks outfit, a sweater with an embroidered football, and several blue and green sleepers. (Obviously, I visited the baby clearance rack at Target just a little too frequently.)
Someone from Ryan’s previous job gave us this outfit when Chloe was born. She only wore it once, but I saved it for “my boy.”
I couldn’t stop crying… and then deep breathing… and then crying again. My girls came in to ask me something. When they saw me quietly crying, they came close to inspect the reason for my tears. They looked in the box and asked about the boy stuff. I managed to give a matter-of-fact, motherly answer that I hoped would explain my sadness, but not make them upset. They sympathized and offered the sweetest words of compassion I’ve ever heard. It always amazes me when children seem to know how to respond to tears and deep emotion better than adults do. They hugged me and said it was going to be ok. Then Chloe said, “God gave you two girls and that is a good thing.” I corrected her and said, “No, that was the best and most wonderful thing ever!!” Their words smacked a whole lot of truth to my heart. It hit me so tenderly and caused me to ponder a question I had never thought before… “How close had I come to not being able to be a mother at all because of this awful disease?” What if it had affected my fertility earlier? I am incredibly blessed! I held them tight, overwhelmed in the moment by thankfulness, kissed their blond heads and buried my nose in their sweet smell until they squirmed away and ran to play, quickly forgetting all about the box with blue things inside.
I wrote in a previous post, “The Year of Letting Go” that I had finally let go of my desire to have another child and that is true, but I think God knew I needed to say a final goodbye to those lingering expectations of how life was “supposed to be”… and leave it all in my Father’s hands. He knew this. He knew I needed a moment – hunkered down and crying in a cold storage room, to confront my pain and bring peace to a heart that I didn’t even realize was still on the mend. I needed to make peace with a body that I no longer had control of, not that I ever did in the first place. I reconciled that God is God and I am not. He knows me. He sees my pain and He was coming in close to the hurt.
I’m going to find a good home for the baby boy things and I am actually looking forward to getting rid of the double stroller! But I am keeping the clothes that remind me of how small my girls once were… because time marches on so fast and there will come a day when I will need these reminders of how insanely small their feet were, how Cammie’s little “cheesecake” thighs looked in pink bloomers, and a soft memory of that special spring day when two tiny, smiling girls twirled in bright green grass in their new Easter dresses. Yep, I will keep those treasures forever.
In spite of my minor meltdown, I made quite a bit of progress on cleaning the room, even though my body is paying dearly for it this week! It was necessary and cathartic, for more than one reason. I am thankful for a God that cares about the condition of our heart. Even when He closes a door, He makes sure it is not slammed or shut abruptly. He gently closes it, so that our hearts can mend… gracefully.