Monday, September 28, 2009

Sorting laundry

The last episode of Top Chef Masters asked the contestant chefs to recreate meals that were turning points in their desires to become chefs - they had to recreate food memories. Not everyone has strong food memories but the subject fascinated me.

What triggers your memories?

For me, visual triggers pull my memories. One of my very earliest memories is from when my dad took me to a movie, my first movie. I was two years old and we saw The Muppet Movie and I remember almost nothing about the movie but I remember being enchanted with the red velvet upholstery of the seats. I didn't know red could be so red. I didn't know red could be so dimensional.

I remember a book from childhood. I don't know what it was called and I wish I did so I could get it for my girls but there were ballet students twirling in their tutus. The illustrations were done in watercolors and the swimming of the pinks and blues and purples - I can still see the pages today.

I remember the shape wet gingko left on the sidewalks of the campus where my dad taught when we lived in Pennsylvania. We left Pennsylvania when I was four.

I've been sorting the girls' outgrown wardrobes. I've returned hand-me-downs to the generous families who lent them to us. I've sorted by size and season and gender-neutrality and Groundhog-wearing eligibility.

I'm having a hard time letting them go. I'm not attached to the clothes as objects intrinsically. It's the memory-triggering:
-the first outfit I ever bought for a kid
-what E was wearing when she figured out how to roll over
-the dress E wore to the hospital to meet her new baby sister
-the velour tracksuit E wore when we first showed her the beach - it was October but M had a conference at a beachside resort so we all went - I took a photo of him holding her and them staring at the ocean, she with her velour hood up over her head - and when he had lung surgery a month later I blew that print up to poster size and hung it in his hospital room - and it was weeks before he could lift her again
-the shirt that says "'L' is for Lovely" that I bought for L when she was but a kicker in my belly, just after we had decided on her name
-the infant ballerina costume they each wore for their first Halloweens
-the brown rainjacket with pink polka dots and matching plastic boots they both wore in the first springtimes when they learned how to walk
-the black jean skirt with the bright pink lining that L loved to flip upside down and flash
-the outfit they both wore at around 8 months old for their first plane rides
-oh, the overalls

The clothes, they're just things. But I think the pattern of those black dotted pants will always remind me how L figured out how to walk on the weekend of her first birthday. So I don't want to lose the image of that pattern.

I know we are incredibly lucky that our kids are clothed and shod, that keeping them warm isn't so much a concern as keeping them cute. I know also that, in sorting out purchases from hand-me-downs, we have many wonderful and generous friends, and these clothes are a wonderful reminder of that, too. I know that there are grandmothers who might spend too much time shopping. I know that these clothes have a lot of life left in them, and it's time to pass them on.

But I can't lose the image of those black dotted pants, so tomorrow I'm launching Operation Nostalgia, also known as The Posts Nobody Cares About But Me. I'll give the clothes away on Wednesday. But first, tomorrow I'm going to lay them all out and photograph them (and post here for easy reference). And also tomorrow: I should warn the recipient's daddy to clean out the trunk of his car. There is a whole lot of wardrobe that will be hearing our goodbyes. Pin It