Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fabric Memories

People talk about how a song or a smell can bring back memories, but for me it’s clothes. There are certain t-shirts, dresses, even socks that transport me to days gone by, some of them special, but many of them the simple ordinary moments of childhood. The watermelon dress that my daughter wore incessantly was a soft red-checked poplin sleeveless number with a big watermelon framing her face. She wore that dress to preschool, church, play dates, even to ride her pony. And the Tigger sweatshirt that my oldest adored, forever captured in a photo at Disney World. The look on his face when he met Tigger reflected the enormity of the moment and reminds me of how magnificent his imagination always was and is. My youngest has filled my storage bins with sports t-shirts. His first year as a Phillie in T-ball ignited his love for baseball (and the Phillies). Or the England jersey stained with blueberry syrup from the year his soccer team went to the championship game under the lights.  

Baby clothes make me especially emotional. I remember the sweet faces capped by the tiny hats I’ve saved. The funny onesies that made everyone laugh at my baby showers – “Don’t call me cute, I wanna be smart!”. Gift clothing is a double bonus of gratitude – the giver and the wearer. The tiny crocheted booties a friend brought my daughter back from Ireland still sit on my dresser. I could never part with the gorgeous baptismal outfit chosen when an older and wiser friend took me on my first outing with my newborn baby, patiently waiting while I loaded every possible necessity in to my diaper bag and calming my worries about feeding him in public. Even the flannel receiving blanket that swaddled my babes in the hospital nursery, the one with the blue and pink line, the same given to every other child born in that hospital, makes me sigh.  

These days my children are still cute, but not quite so cuddly, yet I still hoard their special clothes. The t-shirt my daughter made that says, “You Laugh At Me Because I’m Different, I Laugh At You Because You’re All The Same“ captures a moment that must be saved to pull out when her own daughter is challenging her sanity. The purple tie worn to the first Homecoming dance recalls my teenage son’s awkward confidence. The faded T-shirt that proclaims, “My Uncle Flies Airplanes at Seymour Johnson AFB,” reminds me of the bond my youngest has with his uncle and makes me proud. These are the fabrics that embody the moments that have shaped who they are becoming. These get stashed in my “Keepsake Clothes” bin (actually three bins now).  

I have a friend who makes memory quilts as a side business. She is a master at sorting through a pile of old clothes and creating a sacred and treasured family heirloom. Some day I will enlist her skills to create my own quilt of memories. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cull the herd down to the material for one quilt. It may require several. Maybe one will be from when they were babies and I’ll wrap myself in it when I am missing them. Another can be comprised of their teenage years and when I’m doubting my own abilities to overcome obstacles, I’ll draw comfort from those memories. And one will be comprised of clothes that tell a story. Someday I can curl up with a grandchild and tell her about the “cow jammies” that her mother insisted on wearing every night, stubborn as she was. Or maybe I’ll just wrap myself up in the memories, knowing that the fabric of this quilt was worn soft by the lives of my babies.

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