Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An irreplaceable gift for my daughter

I’m going to a baby shower this weekend. It’s in New Jersey. Normally, I wouldn’t travel all that way for a baby shower, but I would travel to the moon for this one. Because this is the baby shower for my grandson! (Oh, how I love the sound of those words: my grandson.) We expect Nicholas Ferris Ferrara to make his grand entrance in the early part of August, so it’s time to get ready.

I remember how I prepared for the birth of my first-born. We put up a bed and some shelves in the room that would be the nursery. Then we gathered baby things, folded them and put them away. Since this was back in the day when you didn’t know the gender of your baby before it was born, all of the clothing was gender neutral, a lot of yellows and greens. Every day I would take each article of clothing out and look at it for a while, imagine the tiny person who would soon wear it, then re-fold it and put it away again. Among those items were some sweaters my mom had crocheted, along with matching hats, booties, and a beautiful blanket. That was how she prepared for the birth of my first-born. She crocheted lovely baby clothes.

A couple years after my daughter Gretchen was born, I was also blessed with a son, Ben. The year he was born, my mother died unexpectedly. She had the opportunity to meet him once, but he doesn’t remember it. I don’t know if Gretchen can remember her or not. And that has been a continual source of grief in my life, that my children never got to know my mother and she never got to know them. I hope and pray that I am around long enough that Nicholas will consider me a part of his life.

After my mother died, I took the baby clothes she had crocheted and put them in a sealed plastic bag along with the prom dresses she sewed for me. Over the past 35 years, that bag of treasures has moved with me from place to place. I kept these things my mother made by her own hands because I couldn’t bear the thought of parting with them. And I always dreamt of the day when I would be able to give the baby items to my daughter and she could use them for her own child.

As soon as I learned I would be going to this baby shower, I immediately thought of the lovely baby things my mother made. I couldn’t wait to wrap them up and give them to Gretchen at the shower as a present from Nicholas’s great-grandma. Every time I thought of that moment my eyes welled with tears.

So, after carrying that bag of family treasures with me for 35 years, the time had finally come. I went to retrieve it from the attic. But it wasn't where I thought it was. Maybe I had put it in the back of one of my closets. I dug through every closet, and… not there. I returned to the attic, where mostly Christmas stuff was being stored, and I tore open every box. Nope. I went back to the closets and took everything out. How could it not be here? Then I dug through all my chests of drawers, getting more and more desperate. I was gradually coming to the realization that the bag wasn’t in my house. But it had to be! I spent all day doing this, over and over. I sobbed as I kept going up to the attic again and again. Eventually my tears gave way to exhaustion.

How was it possible that I had kept these precious items with me all this time and now when I was ready to pass them on to Gretchen, they were nowhere to be found? It couldn’t be. But it was. They were gone. I thought back to the move before my last one and remembered that there was one box that didn’t make it. I noticed it when I went to use my power drill to hang some curtain rods and it was missing. I called the moving company and they were unresponsive, to say the least. I replaced the power drill. No big deal. But the things my mom made were irreplaceable. Had I known they were in that box, I would have tracked them down, believe me. That box had gone missing almost three years ago. I would never see the things my mom made again. They were gone. There was nothing I could do to make it not so. In the course of tearing my house apart repeatedly, I finally came to accept that. Although it still pains me.

When I shared this story with my friend, Cherie, she said, “It’s like losing your mother all over again.” I hadn’t consciously made that connection until she articulated it. It was like losing my mother all over again. Yes. My mother, who was the grandmother of my children and never got to know them. There were so many times while they were growing up that I thought of her and how she would have loved to see them opening their presents on Christmas morning, dressed up for Halloween, acting in their plays at school, graduating. The grief is always there in the background of my life. I have learned to go on, to live around it, but the hole in my life never goes away.

After I came to terms with the fact that the baby clothes my mother made are gone, I had to remind myself that they are just stuff. They were never meant to last forever. I need to get over it. But the loss of my mother is another matter altogether. At the baby shower this weekend, no doubt I’ll think of the gift I wasn’t able to give my daughter. And the grandma I will always wish could have been a part of her life. 

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