I have trouble getting rid of stuff. I’m pretty sure it’s pathological. But a few months ago, spurred on by a friend, I saw with fresh eyes that our small house was overrun with stuff. The most embarrassing part was it wasn’t just regular stuff — it was baby stuff, and I no longer had babies.
The bat-to-the-head moment was just after a friend came over to pick up her son from a playdate. She stood in the middle of my 5-year-old’s room and said quite plainly, “Boy, there really are a lot of baby toys here!”
It was true. The sunny room was chock-full of large, plastic, noisy, colorful, and wonderful baby toys. Giant yellow trucks were parked in the corner. A plastic bin overflowed with mini pianos, wooden puzzles, a ball-and-hammer toy, interlocking baby rings, and tiny baby animal books. Shamefully, there was even a leftover pacifier.
I was filled with sadness and anxiety. My husband and I had spent countless hours lounging in our sweatpants on the floor with our baby boys playing with all of this stuff. Time had a different quality then. Each weekend there was no hurry to get to soccer, tennis, baseball, or birthday parties. Our job was to play, respect naptime, cuddle, and drink loads of coffee. It was socially acceptable to look like hell. Outfits that could have doubled as pajamas littered with holes regularly made their debuts around town. The best part was we didn’t care.
But now, I don’t have babies. The 8-year-old understands multiplication and division, and the 5-year-old asked us how the earth rotates around the sun. These little beings have turned into people. Time is passing; the sweatpants days are over. We are supposed to wear pants.
But the stuff, the little tricycle, the baby basketball hoop, the tiny slide! I knew I had to purge to at least front as sane, but what about baby basketball? What about diapered babies riding around the backyard with big baby smiles?
Plus, what about the cruel irony in the fact that we just figured out how to do this baby thing, and now all of that know-how is obsolete?! We just conquered our fears of bedtime, exhaustion, dirty diapers, and loud public crying. We can do this! But now, we no longer need to. And yet…the stuff. We were surrounded.
My husband and I started the cleaning by asking the 5-year-old if he wanted to participate. “Yes,” he said, “I’m ready for my big boy room!” As each toy was placed on the chopping block, he went to work banging, swooshing, and vrooming. And then he declared that he wanted to keep it all, just not in his room. With that, a new place was created for baby toys in our garage (for my son’s sake, not for mine).
I come by sentimental hoarding honestly. When my sister was pregnant with the family’s first grandchild, my mom shipped boxes of our old baby toys from Maryland to Santa Monica, California. The boxes even had toys from her childhood, still in perfect condition! A doll from the 1950s with an intact wardrobe came with items from my era like ancient baby dishes, a Fisher-Price boat, and even a baby chew toy that would surely kill or just maim if used today.
While commenting on how eccentric our mother could be, my sister and I joyfully cradled each toy and took pictures with them. My favorite picture is the one where I’m arm-in-arm with a pregnant big sis, happily smiling with my old baby bib tied around my 30-something-year-old neck.
After we relived times with the old toys, we panicked because we realized they were off our mother’s plate, but now they were our burden. It’s clearly a genetic problem. I felt this recently when a package arrived from Maryland containing my extracted wisdom teeth (roots intact). Those teeth came out of my mouth 25 years ago.
As the current cleaning project continued, next was the Bob jogger stroller. Bob was taking up a considerable amount of space in our bedroom, but Bob was our friend. He went everywhere, cradling our babies. Early morning strolls to Starbucks, desperate attempts at stroller naps, the farmer’s market, Disneyland, the zoo — Bob saw it all.
I examined Bob and reached into his pocket, finding a smooth tan pebble that my little son found a few years ago. Could I really get rid of Bob? Yes, I must! It’s psychotic to keep a stroller just for sentimental reasons, right?
My husband listed Bob on Craigslist. Just a few days later, a nice woman named Cecilia and her husband showed up and decided to take him. As they pushed Bob out the door, I tried to hide the emotions on my contorted and overly expressive face. Cecilia saw this and said, “Don’t worry. It’s going to a good home. I know how we all can get really attached to the things that were our babies.”
Things that were our babies. Two losses there: the things and the babies. She nailed it. She put words to why I have a constant death grip on this baby stuff. Knowing she understood made saying goodbye to Bob a tiny bit easier. I won’t have babies to hold anymore, but Bob would get another shot. Goodbye, Bob. We loved every beautiful, wondrous, cuddling, joyous, sweatpants-ed, stressful, challenging, and exhausting moment with you. We will miss you terribly and always.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with my wisdom teeth.