It’s Sunday morning. The sun decides to hide behind some dark clouds, turning the day quiet and listless. We had just finished a late breakfast of buttermilk pancakes on the veranda. I am the last one at the table, savoring the cool air; lost in trance, listening to the quiet drumming of rain on the rooftop.
When at last, I can no longer ignore the beckoning of housework; I get up and walk to my daughter’s bedroom. Summer has just finished and already the winter wind is blowing through the autumn season. It is a good time as any to pack all of Julia’s summer clothes and clean out her closet.
As I sort through baby blankets and cot sheets, I turn to the pile on the floor and almost immediately, I am awashed with a sense of nostalgia. It suddenly dawns on me that my little girl turned four just a week ago. She is no longer my little one. How did that happen? I promised myself the day she was born that I would cherish every moment with her; the same promise I made when I gave birth to our boy, Jarrod who is now eight. And already I feel my memories betraying me, fading like a distant cloud in the morning sky. Thank goodness for photos and videos, recorded moments that I can always go back to and reminisce.
But today, even those seem not enough. My heart aches a little. I sift through the pile and see a faded yellow thick blanket with three stout baby elephants embroidered on one end. It was the very first blanket we bought for Jarrod and was passed on to Julia four years later. The first blanket she used when she came home from the hospital. Between them, they shared the same cot sheets, wraps and blankets, keeping them both warm in many cold nights.
It was the yellow blanket that I used quite often to cover their little bodies as I held them in my arms during midnight feeds. Memories come flooding back. I cannot let go of the yellow blanket. Neither of my children will ever have the need to use it again. They have outgrown it and yet I clutch it in my hands, silent tears roll down my cheeks.
How did they grow up so fast?
Julia is my last baby. She has a happy little soul. Her smile literally brightens up my day and her cries touch my heart. Jarrod protects her just like a big brother does. And I am filled with quiet pride. The faded yellow blanket has done its job. It has kept them snug and protected them from the winter cold. The time has come for the yellow blanket to retire, perhaps warm another child. But I am yet to let go; my hand is still unfastened.
Finally, my reverie is broken by a loud squeal from the living room.
“Mummy! Wee wee! Wee wee!” Julia is running on the hallway to the bathroom. I get up to open the door and help her to sit down. “There’s lots of wee wee coming, Mummy,” she informs me. I smile at her. We have had plenty of small talk in the bathroom while she’s doing her business, mostly while she elucidates on her constitution. Who would have thought that my little girl’s ‘potty commentaries’would infuse life in my day?
Julia washes her hands and she is back playing in the living room with her big brother, leaving me behind, once again holding the yellow blanket.
I pick up the sheets, blankets and old clothes from the floor and put them in a clean garbage bag.
“Tomorrow, I’ll take these to St Vinnies,” I whisper to myself, holding back renewed tears.
My babies are growing up. Tomorrow will be another dawning, another set of memories. I hold onto them, not letting go of what they have brought into my life. The yellow blanket has resigned. Perhaps in another time, with a new family, it will serve its purpose again for another child. But for now, the faded yellow blanket remains in my home, within my reach.
I pack it away, back in Julia’s closet. There are just some things worth keeping. It will serve as another source of treasured memory, the times it kept both my babies warm in the night while I held them in my arms.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem