November 22, 2010

Letting Go Someday

“It's silly”, I prefaced to AB – who had both hands on the wheel, and a casual demeanor.  It felt safe.  Comfortable.  Maybe I could say this without sounding ridiculous.

I started again.  “I mean, it’s absurd…really.  I don’t know why it bothers me.  I guess I just need to talk about this with someone and you’re probably the last person I should be pouring my heart out to about this”…I was stammering.  Stalling.  Avoiding.  11th hour avoidance. 

He gave me a crestfallen and emphatic look.  “First of all, I should never be the ‘last person’ you can pour your heart out to”, he said.

I already knew that.  It was just…

“Well, you should hear what it is before you say that…you might agree with me”, I cautioned back to him playfully.

“Just tell me, babe…it’s ok.”  He was my rapt audience.

“Alright", I replied. "But be gentle with me.  I'm still not sure why this bothers me as much as it does and I’m trying to figure it out".  This was harder than I thought it would be.

I began…“a few people have been asking me for Keira’s things when she’s done with them.  You know, basically her clothes.  For their girls.  Stuff  that she’s grown out of.”

“Uh-huh…and?” He said gently.  He was listening, it was good I hadn’t already lost him with the word “clothes”.

“Well, I have…I am…it’s just that I feel…”  The words weren’t coming out.  I could not even form a lousy sentence – good grief. 

And suddenly, without warning, a pool of emotion came spilling out of me.  Here it was - face buried in my hands...

I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  I know it’s the right thing, I guess it is? You know, to give your stuff to another family.  Or to share.  Or whatever it is..hand em’ over, hand em’ down, or whatever you want to call it.  And I know the idea is that you get them back, or most of them anyway.  I get that.  But, well…I can’t.  I mean…”

The tears started falling before I could stop them.  Before I could convince them how silly I would look.  Beg myself not to be overly-emotional and lose all credibility.  I had a point, I just didn’t know what it was. And now I was crying and forgetting what I wanted to convey.  I tried again…

“I can’t let go.  It’s a part of her.  A part of me.  I see those clothes, and I see her in them, at various stages of her babyhood…these past ten months that have been flying by with shocking speed.  Clothes she wore in China. I remember her in each little dress or outfit.  I can see her in my mind, and remember where we were or what we were doing.  I know in my head, it’s just fabric.  But in my heart, it’s a part of her.  I sound ridiculous, I know I do.  I just can’t help it!” Fat tears made their decent.  Still, I continued…

“And it’s not just sharing them – I can’t seem to sell them, consign them…I can’t.  Babe, I have tried.  Just this morning I was putting away laundry in her room and I realized it was time to put the cool-weather PJ’s away.  So I pulled out all her short sleeve jammies and went to put them in the closet in a tub.  You know the one where I put the clothes she's outgrown?  Well, just saying goodbye to those clothes…knowing she wouldn’t wear them again, wouldn’t be that small again…I said out loud to only myself ‘stab me in the heart’, as I placed them in the tub.  And I was mostly joking, but still, it did hurt to say goodbye to them.  To see them go…because they were taking that sweet little phase of her life with them – the summer months of her first year home with us.” 

I waited.  My sadness seeping out and my vulnerability seeping in...

And when he spoke, it was with kindness & gentleness in his voice. 

“Well, the way I see it…most of those clothes were bought over a five year period of time.  A period of waiting for her.  And they were all you had of her for those five years.  You have an emotional attachment to them, because they represent a huge chunk of your life and your heart while you waited for her to come home to you.  So that's why giving them away, or selling them or seeing another child wearing them hurts.

He went on..."you did that for a long time - be apart from her.  So I can see why it would be hard to say 'goodbye' to something that was a large part of your comfort while you waited.  And so now she’s worn these clothes well and she's outgrown them…and you’re grieving.  The clothes, which for you represent your wait for her and loving her all those years...and the fact that she's growing up.  I totally get that.”

For a minute I sat in silence.  Absorbing.  Feeling loved and validated.  So I added for extra measure and truthfulness…

"To be honest, I feel that way about Quint’s stuff too…I can’t see it go to anyone and I hate to even pack it up.  I do it, but I don’t like it.  It’s so hard for me.  I physically get sick thinking of giving them away.  I can’t imagine.  Like I’m saying goodbye to his childhood…to him…every time”.

He nodded and smiled.  “Well Honey, Quint was a part of your wait too.  He was a part of the road you’ve walked the past five years – and it was an emotional road.  You’re allowed to feel this way.  You’re allowed to say ‘I’m not letting go of this right now’.  You’re allowed to tell your friends that because these clothes have deep sentimental value to you, you’re just not able to part with them at this point in your life.”

“Any maybe someday I will?”  I chimed in quietly.

“Yes, maybe someday you will…” he said gently.

“And I can be all hoarder-crazy for a while and just keep piling this stuff into tubs in the attic until I can maybe let some of it go?”  I gave him a sideways glance.

“You can.” 

And I leaned over so my head could lay on his shoulder, and so I could dry my tears on his sweatshirt.  And it felt better.  Just to say it all.  Just to admit I couldn’t let go – silly as it seemed, even to me.  And to be lovingly reminded of why I felt this way.  And I listened as the kids happily chattered away in the seats behind us – giggling and laughing and filling the car with sweet jibber-jabber.  My babies who were so little now, but I knew full-well, would be grown and gone too soon.

And so for that day and for today and perhaps for many years, I’m taking baby steps to say goodbye to a long wait that still sits deep in my heart and shows its effects in strange unexpected ways.    Even though it’s over, it’s still a part of me.  And I still struggle to forget how much it hurt.  How much it still hurts sometimes to let go of any part of them.  Even their little clothes.

Maybe someday…but not just yet

P8050032 Keira’s closet, circa “while we waited”


Joan said...

Wow... That was beautiful. I am so happy you have someone that totally gets you! I read your posts about your marriage and relationship and say - yup... that is what I am waiting for. I hope I find it one day. Thank you for sharing.

Kayce said...

I so easily could have written this or have a conversation with my hubby about the same thing. I can't let any of our girls clothes go yet. Not a one. I love how AB put it and his words are so true.

Lacie said...

What a well-written and touching post!

Anton has an amazing ability to listen to you and then to articulate what you are feeling. It's a true testament to how deeply he loves you.

The picture of the closet makes me sad. I am still in my wait (though my journey isn't the same as yours) but the wait is sad and empty, other those tangible things. They sometimes feel like it's the only part of your baby that is real for the time being.

I can understand why you are having trouble letting go.

The Brood 2010 said...

Another comment from another China Momma who gets it. I could have written your post!

Hey! BTW, I just got an email in my inbox from Picture People and I SWEAR the little sweet pea in the ad looks VERY FAMILIAR... Am I nuts or do you have another budding model on your hands?


Michal said...

I was just able to let go of Ev's stuff. Just now. She's 6. I took a long time saying good-bye, I held almost every item and cried a bit over every sweater, skirt, dress or shirt.
I never understood my reluctance to let go of her outgrown clothing until I read the words of your wonderful, wise husband. And now I get it and I am glad I let myself hang on until I could let go.

Keep her stuff. Keep Quint's. You will know when it's time. And hey, you may never feel like getting rid of them and that's ok too. Ya know?

Sue said...

I feel EXACTLY the same way. I have almost all of Alexa's outfits she wore in China and her first year with us packed away. There is no way I could part with them. I never gave it too much thought but your hubby explained it perfectly. Those items were all I had for the wait until she wore them and that means a lot.
Thanks for putting it into words. : )


Briana's Mom said...

I soooo get this post. I just started to get rid of some of Briana's clothes earlier this year and she is four! I still have a small box of my favorite outfits of her that I just cannot part with.

My friend sent me a link to this site that makes memory blankets - I plan to do this with my favorite Briana baby clothes one day. This might be an answer for you for both Quint and Keira's clothing. :)

The Gang's Momma! said...

Oh, honey! I totally get it. I hear ya. the journey to our kiddoes, whether bio or adopted, is chock full of meaning and value and sentiment and all kinds of emotions and thoughts. I love that you put it all into words, and so sweetly at that!

And while I'm thinking of it, I TOTALLY am impressed with AB's thoughtful and gentle and understanding response. You got a good one there, girl!

But yeah. I struggle with that with all five of my kids. What I did to ease through it was sort through the very most precious of the clothes. WHEN.I.WAS.READY. I kept the most precious and put them in storage. It's an odd little assortment of boy clothes - all from the first 18 months it turns out. And I kept them. I'm keeping them for as long as I need or want to.

As for the girl stuff? No need to worry myself with the pressure to share - I loan to my nieces when they need it. But I get it all back and I'm keeping it all till God says we're done. Considering that we're still in the app stage of #6, it might be a while. But I'll likely do the same thing... and treasure the pieces for the sweet memories they represent also!

Suz said...

It's so nice to know there are others who get it! I have a reprieve since we are asking for another girl, but when the time comes, I think I'm making a quilt with all the most precious pieces - especially the ones that I folded and refolded millions of times during the wait. Your hubby is so sweet, you have a winner!

Have a great Thanksgiving with your sweet, beautiful fmaily of 4!!!!

Christie said...

Jenn - really? Can you e-mail me?