Years ago my mother visited me. With fanfare she rarely called into action, she said, “I brought something for you.” She pulled my baby book, old and worn, out of a plastic supermarket bag. I could tell she had planned a little ceremony surrounding the hand-off. I tried not to show it, but I was not pleased.
She was being practical. My mother was always practical. She said something about not wanting it to get lost, and then her voice trailed off a little.
She was talking about a time when she and my father would no longer pull up in front of my house and stay the weekend. She was preparing for a future when we wouldn’t be able to gossip at my kitchen table over a glass of wine or catch up on what my kids were up to.
I didn’t like it one bit. I wanted the book to stay on the shelf at her house, where it had always been. I didn’t want to be the grown-up in the family yet. That was her job.
But I took it from her that day. And now that baby book lives on my shelf, along with the other three baby books I wrote in (the third one sparingly, my third-born would tell you, rolling her eyes). I don’t know when their books will get shuffled off to their homes. Not yet.
I haven’t opened mine in a long time, but I did today. We had a new baby born into the family last week, and every time that happens, it seems like a good time to revisit it. And every time I do, I learn a few things I’d overlooked before.
- My mother was a stickler for details. But on her first try, she got not only the day of my birth wrong, but the month, too. Her corrections are in a different color ink. Translation: I’ve never been this tired in my entire life. There must be a medical term for this level of exhaustion.
- In 1950, people were far less worried about babies swallowing beads. The identification bracelet was tied to my wrist with a piece of twine. I can see this was not a foolproof system, but feel pretty confident I landed at the right house anyway.
- My parents thought I was the most beautiful baby ever born despite concrete evidence to the contrary.
- I came from an extended family of comedians. My Godmother wrote: “When Ed called this A.M. I was only half awake and forgot to ask who Little Linda looks like—Mama, Papa, or the Bendix fixer?…I hope she has Mama & Papa’s disposition—but please, God, let Linda look like the Bendix fixer!”
- I got off to an impressive athletic start, which was brief. I peaked at ten months.
- I learned early to write for all the right reasons.
When I open the baby book, I study her quirky handwriting. I picture the exhausted young mother at 22, thinking she’d better write down what happened that day. Maybe even back then she was thinking that someday, far in the future, I could read it and know the little bits of my history that only she knew.
I wonder if she realized I’d hear her voice again, too. I’ll bet she did.
QUESTION: What mementos do you treasure from your childhood?
CHALLENGE: Designate a box or file folder to collect items/memories for your children to look back at as they grow up.
Edited by Nollie Haws and Sarah Monson.
Images provided by the author; graphics added by Anna Jenkins.
I love this thought! I love that when my kids read their little journals they not only know part of their own history, but get to hear it from the one who loved them most and knew every inch of them from day one!
What a special keepsake!
And for me, an added incentive to write my thoughts about them, no matter how tired I might be!