I paw through the piles in the local thrift store, Frenchies, my replacement for Goodwill, out here in the Maritimes, the eastern arse of this country, full of beauty and wonder and backwardness. I’ve walked past the Infant bins (0-24mths), paused at the “Kids” bins (7-14) and hovered at the “Toddlers” bin, (2-6X).
Suddenly slightly bigger shirts cost more. Suddenly I realize we’re almost off the Toddler bin as well, growth exponential from day one. I can recall my hands in these bins, pregnant with Vivian, swollen and itchy, grasping the baby blue chucks, size 6 I found one day in June. I can recall my hands in similar bins, heavily pregnant with Rosalyn, looking for neutral sleepers, knowing she was a girl, but hardly trusting my own knowledge. Tiny t-shirts, the world in your hands.
I can trace them by these ages, by 12 month velvet dresses hardly worn, size 3 t-shirts, faded from afternoons on the deck, running, screaming free in the sunlight, warmth that never ended. Size 5 dresses being grown out of, the stains of school and tears and trial draped across them.
You learn from these clothes. Don’t get attached. To hold close to that tiny sweater, purchased while pregnant and glassy eyed the first time is to hold close to all those things that can’t come true. To the perfect baby you will never have. To the ideal of a baby, the ideal of a mother. You learn that we grow out and beyond what once was comfortable, even if still attractive.
More importantly, we learn that sometimes, 40.00 for a baby dress just isn’t worth it. No matter how damn cute it is.
I’ve lost the ability to place anything I want on my daughters, that ultimate doll experience we never necessarily admit to. No more overalls, no more cute little jeans. Personality, desire has asserted itself, the ego, the need. I bow back to it, step away, find myself pouring through clothing mumbling “she hates buttons” “too girly-she won’t be caught dead in this” and throwing the pinks and the frills and the buttons back, my need, my wishes displaced, moved.
My lesson in this, my lesson brought down from upon high in a thrift store, in the midst of the smells of hundreds of other people, other lives, is one of control, of receding and perhaps even torn away control. I can guide, I can prod I can whisper, I can yell. But free will, damn she is a BITCH and my daughters, all legs and hair and glimmering eyes and potential, they will move their mountains when they’re good and ready to do so. I shall move behind them, but a bridesmaid to hold the train as they move through life.
We separate slowly at first-no one knows our baby like we do! Or so we think, until we watch our crankpot go calm and sweet in the arms of a more experienced mother. Slapping us like a Curly, we are rendered speechless and know “It’s not always me”. And quietly, in a barely noticeable way, that baby smirks and sigh, knowing it’s started it’s reign.
I stood staring today, staring at where I’ve been. New mother to an infant, panicky mother to two kids under two, and now, tired, touched out mother of children. Change controls me now-the never ending cycle of new clothes and old clothes, things they can suddenly touch, candy I can no longer hide. Cute things they just won’t wear.
The one dress, the green Lilly with the blue whales-one won’t wear it, and it’s only barely big enough to pass for a shirtdress on the oldest. But it’s beautiful and it makes her eyes sparkle so and she wants to wear it.
Who am I to say no?