Having recently come out of a depression… months and months of stalling, stagnating, feeling stuck and dark, it’s amazing to see how much I get done, now that I am digging my way out. Frankly, I was beginning to think that my new base line was, well… very low— after years of compulsively do, do, doing. Projects that have been cluttering my head for months, no years, are getting done. I’m writing most days again, working on my novel and determined to get it back to my editor by this summer. I’ve thought about that for ages, but had done barely anything since she sent it back last summer for more edits. Admittedly, my blog has suffered a bit, but frankly, it’s all part of my “recovery.” I’m doing what inspires me, in the moment, not what I feel obligated to do. I write my posts when I’m inspired. I work on my novel with renewed inspiration and focus. I take on projects that I really want done. The hope, the vision: that the things I do will be infused with a new passion and commitment. So far, it feels very rewarding.
So, we have a storage space on the third floor. The original owners dug under the house, put in a floor and low walls, and called it storage space. The problem is that it is very damp down there.
All the junk Everything I’ve stored over the years has mildewed horribly. The idea of taking it all out and dealing with it has literally bogged me down mentally for years. Years! I decided to start with baby steps— literally. I started with all the baby clothes I’ve kept… the favorite outfits, precious things that each of my three children have worn through the years. They were all in plastic bins, but not the truly airtight ones that are made now. So, they all smelled awful! They are, however, the most important things in that space and I figured that if I start there, even if I peter out later, I will have accomplished the sacred stuff.
Let me start there, with an ounce of honesty: I kept an awful lot of stuff, and not all of it is as sacred as I once thought! There, I’ve admitted it. I’ve certainly owned up to a fair bit of
hoarding pack-ratting squirreling collecting over the years. You could read here, or here, or here, and a few other posts as well, and you’d see the trend, the dysfunction, the struggle. For now, I’m practicing self compassion: there are reasons, and I’m working on it. All of it. You might read those other posts and think: well, she’s said she’s changing before, or sounds like the same issues, or you might notice a trend toward slowly figuring out that things I’ve saved are less valuable than I thought they were. If you’re anything like the voices in my own head, there are plenty of points you could make. But, again, I’m working on that: compassion.
It’s a work in progress. So I looked at each item carefully, and anything that wasn’t still special (no matter how cute), or which had spots, etc, I donated. Took them out the next day. A few items I mailed off to friends in Denmark, who just had babies (twins), and from whom I received these items in the first place. So, now two little boys in Denmark, will be wearing the same overalls their daddy once wore, and passed on to my girl! That is big progress and fun kismet.
I saved so much!! My future grandchildren will never need new clothes, and I have to hope that their parents have no attachment to current styles. My grandkids will be vintage babies, no doubt… in my mind. As I lifted items out of the bins, I noticed how incredibly little each of my babies had once been, even if they each came in at 8-9 lbs. Some things I held to my chest, remembering precious moments with my girl, my boys. I remembered the people who had given them some of these things, where we had been living when they wore them, what our lives were like… then. Such sweet memories.
I’ve got Baby Gap clothes from the very first season that Baby Gap put out clothes. Kaching, right? I’ve got rain coats that both boys wore, and their father wore before them, 49 years ago. Blankets that their grandmother, Marcia (Smart Guy’s mom) knit. Outfits that she and Papa bought for them, in their travels. There are sweaters and outfits their great grandmother, Jo-Ann (my grandmother) knit or bought for them. Beautiful items from people who are all gone now. All the classic little dresses and jumpers my mother insisted on, now look so amazing. But the things that hit me hardest, were the countless blankets, onesies, dresses, and various items that my mother painstakingly hand-painted (I had a business doing it for years; she did it exclusively for us) and cross stitched for her grand children.
As I held up each item, I saw it with the same wonder I did when I first saw them years and years ago. I fingered the brush strokes and imagined my mother sitting in her home in Florida and painting each little thing. She made things for each of her grandchildren, when they were little. A few short years after the last babies were born, her Huntington’s took hold and she couldn’t handle a brush, or make the tiny Xs for cross stitch. The Peter Rabbit blanket she made for Middle Man, was probably the only one she ever did. So much work. So much love. She adored her grandchildren. All 7 of them were so important to her. She rocked them when they were little; she sang to them; and, she made things for them.
Principessa, the eldest of her grandchildren, barely remembers her grandmother when she wasn’t sick. That is so sad to me. She was once a very funny, vibrant woman. She was a big personality, who shriveled under HD’s hold. She was still in there, clinging to shreds of herself, to the end, but her grandchildren couldn’t really see that. They saw the woman who stumbled, slurred, became more and more awkward to be around. It is all so very sad. But there, in the bins, are the stitches in time that she made with her own once steady hands. There are the colorful brush strokes and loving details that she made, out of joy and pride, for children she adored.
I washed each item with the Dreft I once used for all of my baby clothes. I dried them, and folded each item carefully. They are all tucked away in special bins that keep out moisture and air, and stored in our new storage area— that’s dry and safe. Some day, I will give these to my children, when they have their own children. I will hold new babies, my grandchildren, wearing these beautiful things that their grandmothers, their great and great-great grandmothers made for them. Items that dear friends, aunts and uncles, and I made or bought for them, so long ago. For now, as I ran my fingers over the pattern and colors and stitches, I could remember the women— my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandmother, who once laughed with us, played with us, and loved us. It’s all stored away, waiting for new babies to feel all that history and love.
What have you saved? What do you wish you’d saved? Or, do you let things go, and sleep well? No right answers; just share your thoughts.
Your Mom’s spirit is smiling down on you Dawn, knowing that her legacy of love is preserved in your caring hands. Your future grandbabies will know of her love because of your preservation of these bits of history. Congrats on your perserverance climbing out of that hole, it takes lots of time and effort to do so, I know from my own experience. Keep on truckin’!
Thanks so much. I know my Mom would be so happy that I have these things she worked so hard on. And yes, hard climb, but feels so good when your move forward. Thanks for the support and encouragement. 🙂
You’re such a mama! Great post, Dawn. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.
Thanks Susan. Dreaming of Spain… 😉
I wish I’d saved some of the outfits. I must have handed them down to my sisters and guess they were long donated or tossed. There was fantastic outfits my mother sewed– a sailor suit for Jacob and a gorgeous purple cordury jumper, jacket and hat for Lydia… I do have handknit lion mittens and one knit outfit and blanket.. will start saving!
I had many other things that I loved, that I lent to my sister, they then went to her sister in law, and when my sister divorced, we never got any of it back! I can still see some of those dresses. 😦 But then, I saved an awful lot!
So so teary reading this!
Big hug then. So many of your posts make me teary. They are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing Lillian. xo
Aw what a wonderful present for future family members. So much care and love went into these items. I’m so glad you were able to clean and preserve them. 🙂
Thanks Kourtney. I’m so glad I saved so many things. Many needed to be let go of, but such gems to share one day with my kids, and their kids. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated. 🙂
Beautiful post, Dawn! I, too, save ‘stuff’…and when you need it, you can never find it…or if you do, it is rusty, moldy or unusable in some way. 🙂
I LOVE the hand-painted/hand-crafted garments and I’m glad you were able to salvage those…what lovely framed art they would make…maybe for a baby’s room. 🙂
And most of all, I love the self-compassion. We are all too hard on ourselves…what’s a little pack-ratting, after all. You have a beautiful heart and soul, Dawn…I feel fortunate to have connected with you. 🙂
Wow, thanks so much Vivian. You are always so kind and generous in your feedback. One day, I imagine that these items will either end up wrapped around, put on, or just shared (wall hanging) with new family members. I hope my own children will see all the love in them, too. Thanks for your feedback!
I always love reading your posts, Dawn…you are honest and caring and insightful…and a pretty darn great writer. 🙂
Thank you so much! I love reading your comments! 😉
I’m so glad you rescued these beautiful memories from your basement for future generations. Your Mom was a gifted artist and the love that went into these baby clothes is palpable. My own treasures are the beautiful hand crocheted table cloth that my Mom made as well as a special embroidered sampler that hangs in my library – also from my Mom. Then there’s the counted crosstitch piece made especially for me by my sister after I moved away from Georgia – “An Irish Blessing: May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” I see that every day and feel the love that went into its making as well as message it conveys.
What beautiful treasures, Cathy. I love that my mother made so much effort, when she could. And yes, seeing these things is a reminder of the times when she was fully herself. I’m sure the items your mother and sister made for you will always remind you of times spent together. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, Dawn, this post is a little bittersweet – mostly sweet. 🙂
Those are the treasures that mark the years of our lives. When I thought I was moving to California, and had everything packed up and put in storage, I felt both liberated and sad. I couldn’t get past the image of my life fitting into a storage unit. Not that “things” are my life, but they represent who I am and what I’ve done. They’re markers, I guess? Did you ever see that movie, “About Schmidt” with Jack Nicholson? He’s an insurance salesman and retires — everything from his working years with that company is put into a few boxes and he’s given a watch. Just the expression on his face tells you everything, it’s like, “Is that all there is?” It makes you realize what’s important. The memories and the love we share are really the things we take with us and they don’t require boxes and bubble wrap. 🙂 Somebody said recently that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it. I think this is soo true. At least for me it is.
Since you and I are the same age it’s amazing how close our treasures resemble each others. My mom also hand painted some baby clothes and I too shopped at Baby Gap. Our lives have been running parallel, Dawn. I smiled when I read these things.
I hope you are well my friend, it sounds like you are brightening up with new energy and direction. I feel like I’m coming out of my low, as well. Somebody recently wrote about this year being the year of the Snake in the Chinese horoscope. Interestingly they said it was a year of “shedding.” I REALLY liked this — I’m seeing it in my family members and friends — people getting rid of unwanted and unnecessary things in their lives. (Weight, jobs, relationships, things, bad habits, etc.) I was thinking of doing a post on this idea. I haven’t written a substantive post in months. LOL!
Anyhoo… know that I love ya, and think of you in the “Ham” — and my wheels are turning in the direction of making a visit. Did I tell you my great Grandfather is buried there?
Sorry for the ramble!!
“Ramble” anytime friend! Your feedback is always appreciated, and powerful. I really like the idea of the shedding/Year of the snake idea too! Wow, very cool. Thanks for sharing that.
A G-Grandfather buried in B’ham!! Now, there’s the final reason to visit, if I ever heard one! Wow. Thanks for sharing Lisa.
This has got to be my favorite post! (so far…) I admire and envy your courage and your openness about your experience with depression. And I’m so glad you can now write from inspiration rather than obligation – that just sounds like freedom!
I can’t picture your grandmother knitting, that is so awesome. Your mom’s hand-painted items are amazing! I wish I had things like that to pass on to the next generation. My grandmother made all kinds of things, but when she died suddenly of an aneurysm, my mom got rid of everything. Major regrets. Holding these precious objects is a way of allowing the next generations a chance to tangibly connect with their ancestors. ❤
Thanks Valery! I’m so glad you connected with this piece; you once knew the players well. I think a lot of people would have been surprised to know that my grandmother knitted. She was such an “icon,” and business woman. However, she knitted beautifully, and took it on like she took all things on: to excel. I have two gorgeous nordic sweaters she made for me, and then the ones she made for my children. Love them!
So sad that you lost that link to your grandmother. So often, when people die, others react impulsively… grief, guilt, anger, whatever… and it’s later that they realized what they’ve lost. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for the continuous support you give me! xo