chapter closed

by bam

lord knows i am not the first mama to finally empty the basement, cull through toy chest, sift through little people’s drawers, and send off whole chapters of my life in the back of a delivery truck.
but might we pause to mention that it really hurts, sometimes, to turn the page.
ouch. i’m very much still stinging.
like many things i do in life, i didn’t do this in easy-to-swallow bits. not a box here, a carload there. nope. i filled half a truck, the sort of truck that’s often stuffed with whatever makes a whole apartment tick.
and while i winced with every box, i did not do this all against my will. i was part and parcel of the loading.
it was i myself who lifted up the puppet stage my brothers built one christmas eve, and where many a knight had chased a wolf, and birds burst out of pies.
it was me who hauled up the stairs and out the door the boxes filled with baby clothes and toddler clothes, and the crowning glory, the black-checked baby carrier i wore across my chest, the one we called “the snug.”
i can hardly believe i let it go; i am such a fiend for holding onto things.
especially the snug that made my baby pump his legs whenever he saw it coming. the one i never ever thought i’d get to wear after baby no. 1.
and then the miracle, the leg-pumper who no one thought would be, landed in my oh-so-hungry arms.
hey, wait, i think i’ve got to chase that truck.
oh, lord, i never thought i’d part with half the things i’ve now watched roll away.
the baby stroller first pushed in 1993, on a wobbly walk where one of chicago’s finest leapt from squad car to impart this bit of urban street smarts to parents obviously, despite new italian stroller, inadequately equipped: don’t push the stroller across the alley, the sergeant cautioned, without first stepping out in front to look both ways for cars. to punctuate his well-paved point, he spun a tale of a stroller that got squished, petit enfant inside. advice, ever heeded.
i gave away the whole chronology, the growing of a babe as told through accumulated stuff: the nursing stool, the car seat, the baby monitors, the high chair, the potty seats, the tonka dump trucks, the bed rails, the wooden puzzles, the art table, and, yes, the funny little car that both boys climbed in, got stuck in snow in, and, on hot summer days, doused with garden hose, a drive-under carwash that always made for lots of noise, while boy in bloated diaper scrubbed from bumper to bumper.
for a year or better, that car had been abandoned. these days, my little one has only time for racing scooter, or bike with training wheels.
the car, it seems, along with all the rest, had finally, inarguably, passed its statute of limitations.
and so, i finally surrendered. the chapter, titled birth to 5, has closed. i’ve no business clutching any longer.
it took me years to get here. it took hours of needling from my mother. it’s a sin, she’d tell me, to have too much when some have none. what in the world was i saving it for? she asked a gazillion times.
well, i was clinging for lots of reasons. or, maybe, one or two: i dreamed of passing much of it on to brothers, now far away and still without need for baby carriers or strollers or art tables where little hands will color outside the lines. (psst, don’t tell my mother, and do not let her in the attic, but i’ve got boxes of little tiny clothes and a stack or two of blankets that i am still saving for someone’s someday babies).
as for me and my babies, i’d never thought i’d get a second chance for stroller or snug or car with little wheels, and when i did, i milked it, quite literally, to the final blessed drop.
it was as if, once it all came hurling back to me in the pregnancy that broke the odds, i couldn’t bear to let it go again.
hard-won dreams, i tell you, have a way of nestling deep and solid against the lub-dub of your heart. stingy, maybe, but maybe not so much, not after all the years of banging heaven’s door, pleading for just one more chance to snap on a baby bjorn.
but finally, part cleaning frenzy, part fact that baby 2 is rounding the bend toward six, and large part locked on little children with no chance to sit at little table all their own, or slip a puppet on their hand and tell a mixed-up, wide-eyed story, i did the thing i couldn’t do: i dialed the good souls at a place where i used to rock the babies in the nursery while their mamas tried to find a job, a roof, a life. i gave address, and promised to be home, waiting for the big ol’ truck.
there are lots of ways to mark the growing of your children, the passing of their stages.
there’s the door jamb in our pantry, the one striped with pencil scratches, each one showing which boy, when, had measured what, in ever-rising feet and inches.
there’s the relative ease of getting dressed each morning. boy no. 2, at last, can slip on his own shoes, and actually get left foot in left shoe and not the other way around.
with eight-year lag between the two, we are often slow to inch along, an arithmetic that somewhat dulls the zing, and decelerates the closing of each chapter.
one is toiling to decipher quadratic equations, the other is trying to count to 50 by himself. we’ve not yet put away the abacus.
one might soon start shaving, the other needs help getting toothpaste on his brush. why ditch the stool that gets the spit somewhere near the sink?
i suppose that i should feel a lightened load, what with all the extra room down in the basement. and maybe someday soon i will.
but right now i am thinking of the snug. when no one’s looking i just might sneak into the city, and see if i can spot the mama who clasps it ’round her middle. as she slips her baby’s pumping thighs through those leg holes i could thread, closed eyes, i’ll blow a kiss through cyclone fence, and then, perhaps, i’ll feel much better.
if not, i can always wander home, run my fingers down the door jamb.
or, better yet, grab the one with training wheels, and teach him how to ride.

how do you mark the passing chapters of your lives? when you finally turn a page, does it make you wince? or do you feel freed? and what, of all the treasures you do let slip away, do you decide must stay? it is the things forever tucked away that tell our deepest stories, the archeology of our lives…