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.