Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Change of Clothes

When I got to my sister's house in Tennessee, Meredith, her two year old, ran by me on tiptoe, wearing the same dress that both of my two little girls wore at that age. 

I have memories of them wearing that dress all the time; it had dark blue, pink, and yellow stripes and a hood in back. It was made of a stretchy, knitted cotton material and it had polka-dotted ruffles on the bottom of the skirt. When it was cold outside, or sprinkling, or the wind was whipping hard, both my girls would pull the hood over their heads and try to tell me they didn't need a coat--because this dress had a hood. It was one of those articles of clothing that becomes familiar because it was loved so much by the person wearing it. Both girls thought it was the most comfy play dress ever. 
We'd passed the clothes down, and now it is Meredith's turn to be two and wear that dress. She has dark brown hair, and my girls are blonde. But it didn't matter. Every time she tiptoed by in that dress, barefooted and bare legged, I was me again when they were two. I was looking at Meredith, but I was seeing little Rosemary, little Olivia. And they're cousins. They share the same big eyes, she has the same little sausage arms and legs that my girls had when they were two. Her hair is the same length my girls' hair was when they were two. Even her mannerisms are similar to my girls' when they were two. 

It was a strange, weird feeling. 

It was time travel. It was me, instantly transported to a different period in my life, me re-feeling the gush of love for a two year old and the stresses of parenting a little monkey all over again, all of the feelings happening before I'd given myself permission to feel them. Then, time travel again, something happening to jar me into the present--a realization, a remembering that those times are gone, that I'm in a new reality, that so much has passed, even when there is so much to come, even when there are so many more memories to make. 

I wonder if that's how it feels when you're a grandparent--you see the features that belong on your little girl, your little boy, but the child in front of you is actually your child's child. You see your child's movements, but the person in front of you is not fully your child.

How strange.

Dresses have been a theme for me for a couple days now. That feeling that comes from the passing down of clothes has happened more than once this week.

While we were packing for our big trip to visit my sister, I went on a mission to find a swimsuit for Olivia in our garage. I lugged out the two huge plastic boxes full of clothes--the clothes that Rosemary outgrew 3 years ago. I didn't find the swimsuit, but I did find loads of clothes that Olivia wanted to go through all morning while I was trying to pack. 

Today, finally, I let her put on one of those beloved dresses--a dress Rosemary cherished, loved with the kind of intense love a child can attach to a precious thing that she'll eventually leave behind. It was another play dress, stretchy fabric, pink and black paisley, ruffles. But, of course, very grown up, if you're 4. 

When Olivia put on that dress today, I had the same feeling I had when I saw Meredith in the dress at my sister's house. I was seeing Rosemary again at her younger age. Her movements, her expressions. And then that jolt again--this was my other child and it was time to say goodbye to that old vision of Rosemary. It's time to embrace this new, older version of my youngest teeny tiny baby...

Because my babies are still babies, will always be babies--but they just look and act different now, older. They're both older
It's one thing to time travel by holding up baby clothes and say, "Oh, look how little you used to be." But it's entirely a different experience to look at someone wearing those clothes and see a clone of your baby. And still different to realize that the clone of your baby isn't a clone at all, but that it's all an illusion that is happening only in your own mind. Because your second baby is her own person, too.

Has anyone else experienced this strange feeling when passing down hand-me-downs?