With four kids, the amount of teeth, baby hair, drawings, report cards, pictures and other keepsakes I have, is bound to become insurmountable. With my first child, I wanted to keep everything and I couldn’t part with any of it! I kept his hospital hat, his hospital bands, the little card they wrote his name on in the nursery, the heart monitor they used in the hospital, and yes, as gross as it is, I even kept his belly button when it fell off. Over the years, and with all my other children, I have also kept all their teeth that have fallen out, I have kept their hair from their first haircut, the pages they have colored and painted, and the spelling tests and report cards sent home from school. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of things that have succumb to the bottom of the trash can, but it does break my heart a bit to do it. I used to feel silly for saving all these things, knowing that I was a little bit on the “overkill” side of keepsaking (is that a word?), but this past Thanksgiving my neurotic need for saving my kid’s things was absolutely validated.
My parents hosted Thanksgiving this year, as they often do, and it was the perfect relaxed holiday that I wanted it to be. We got to my parents on time, my side dish didn’t burn, the kids behaved well with no naps all day and I got to reminisce about my childhood. I really couldn’t have asked for more. After we all ate our big Thanksgiving dinner, my husband took the three boys outside to play and burn off some energy… and calories. My mom, seeing that the baby was asleep and I was kid-free, pulled out a big brown legal folder telling me I should look through it, that she had kept things from my childhood and it might be fun to see. So, not knowing what to expect, I cozied up on the la-z-boy with the folder on my lap and started to take things out one by one.
I can’t explain to you how much I enjoyed that time. I feel like it was a true gift. I was transported back years while looking through this stuff and in complete awe that my mom kept some of these things. I was reminded of past teachers, family members and friends. At one point, I pulled out a stack of about four photos. In each photo was a nun holding a tiny newborn baby. My brain couldn’t quite comprehend what I was seeing because although I knew that it had to be me, I had never seen these pictures. I had never even seen myself that young. My parents adopted me when I was three months old and so all the pictures I had seen in photo albums were of me at that age and older. Never a newborn. I am guessing my mother knew how precious these few pictures were and instead of putting them in our albums, she put them away with my other keepsakes. I stared at those photos for so long and dreamed of what life was like for me back then, what it was like for those nuns to take care of me and then relinquish me after forming the inevitable bond. I pulled out birthday letters that my dad had written to me when he was away working. I was able to re-read those words all these years later and remember just how much he has always loved me. I pulled out birthday cards from my 6th birthday party, each card signed by a fellow kindergartner in the handwriting we all had just learned to write. I pulled out hilarious little notes that I had written to my parents, telling them I was running away, or that I loved them, or that I just was happy to be in their family. I found cards my parents had received congratulating them on my adoption. I found handmade cards my grandmother had made for my birthday. I found short stories that I had written either for school or for fun around the age of 9. I remember writing them and it was so fun to go back to that point in time and peek into my 4th grade imagination. I saw my report cards and read comments from my teachers, some made me laugh and some made me happy that it was over. I found an envelope with my baby hair in it.
Either I inherited my mother’s need to hoard childhood memories, or we both understand the importance of saving a piece of a magical childhood. One that, from just a glance at a picture, can bring back so much joy and nostalgia. One of the last things I pulled out of that brown envelope was a letter I wrote to my dad when I was about 8 years old. It was a series of questions to him where I had him circle yes or no. Did he love me? Yes or no. Did God make him white? Yes or no. It was hilarious, and as my mom and dad re-read it this Thanksgiving with me, now at 36 years of age, it was so amazing to see the joy and laughter it brought us all. I haven’t seen my dad laugh so hard in a long time, and the memory of this letter brought him back to a time when I was still his dramatic, innocent, curious yet hilarious, little girl.
It made me determined to continue to keep the important things of my children’s childhoods and to keep tucking away things that make me laugh, smile and cry; to remember. I am excited to be able to pull out their big brown folders one holiday when they have gathered back home for some home cooked food and show them what I have kept and tell them the stories that go along with it. I encourage you all to do the same! Its never too late to start!