I have a plastic box with an airtight lid and it’s full of all sorts of baby memorabilia I’ve held on to for over seventeen years now. It contains two babies’ worth of well-protected treasures: first haircut clippings, going-home outfits, ultrasound photos, belly button stumps (don’t judge me), hospital-issued newborn hats and long-sleeved tee shirts that I accidentally-on-purposely smuggled home in my backpack, ID bracelets, and other miscellaneous things I thought were important when I placed them inside.
Disorganized though it may be, it’s a coveted time capsule that I greatly cherish. Every now and again I like to open it up and poke around at the contents within, smiling to myself as I reminisce about those golden days of yore. It’s like being transported backward through time. When I close my eyes I see snapshots taken from idyllic memories that have remained frozen in suspended animation all these years; perfect moments that came and went long before my two daughters were able to say things like,“You’re such an idiot!” and “Shut UP! I’m telling Mom you said that! MOMMMMMMMM!”
When I was cleaning my bedroom closet one afternoon several years ago, I found myself sitting on the carpeted floor, taking a break and sifting through my box of baby treasures once again. My older daughter, Doom, crept up from behind and her eyes lit up when she saw what I had before me.
“Is that my baby stuff?” she asked with excitement.
“Yep! Yours and your sister’s,” I replied.
“Cool!” She sat down next to me and began pulling things out to inspect them, including a snack-sized Ziploc baggie containing what looked like a flattened raisin. I beamed as I informed her it was a belly button stump. She dropped it like a hot potato in favor of two of what looked like adult-sized socks with the feet cut off, each one fashioned from soft ivory fabric that was gathered and tied with a string of yarn at one end.
She held them up, one in each hand. “What are these?”
“Those are the little hats they put on you guys right after you were born!”
“Cool! Which one was mine?”
With a broad smile still plastered on my face, I paused for barely a second before declaring with absolute certainty that THIS one was her hat and THAT one belonged to her sister.
Truth is, I had no fucking idea which one was which. Since both girls were born in the same hospital, their hats were nearly identical. Was it the shorter one with the white string? Or did she have the longer one with the weird discoloration on it?
Fuck me, I just couldn’t remember.
How could I forget such an important detail? One of these items was the very first hat that would ever be placed upon her precious little head, and I’m a shitty mother because I don’t know which one it was.
When my girls were babies and toddlers, I hadn’t yet realized the importance of labeling things. That’s a lesson I didn’t learn until both of them were in elementary school.
Around this time of year, kids across the country are busy making Christmas ornaments at school. Seriously, I think that must be the only thing they teach in December because not only is my tree completely covered in handmade decorations, but I’ve got paper wreaths, poinsettias, and stockings out the ass.
When my younger daughter, Destruction, was in kindergarten she brought home the exact same Christmas crafts her sister had done three years previously and I thought, “Awwww! This is so great! I’m going to have two of everything and my tree is going to be covered with ornaments that my kids made by hand!”
I promptly hung her decorations on the tree alongside her sister’s. The differences were so obvious! Destruction always loved to use way too much glue so it was glopped all over everything and had dried like white icing on her construction-paper-cone tree. She had a thing for glitter so her pinecone ornament looked like it was trying to masquerade as a disco ball. Destruction’s paper dreidel was colored in blue and yellow marker, which stood out in stark contrast to the blue and yellow crayon that Doom had used on hers.
The tree was a thing of beauty, full of handmade love and priceless childhood memories.
Fast-forward to the following December. I took out the special box of Christmas crafts. One by one, I began placing them on the tree.
And then I stopped in my tracks.
Was this Destruction’s beaded candy cane, or was it Doom’s? I think Doom’s pattern was red-red-white, red-red-white. Or maybe it was the white-white-red. Shit. Construction-paper-cone trees… they both used an insane amount of glue and macaroni. Both pinecones had lost most of their glitter. OH MY GOD, WHOSE DREIDEL IS THIS? THEY’RE BOTH BLUE AND YELLOW!
From that point on, every work of holiday art or craft that entered our home was labeled immediately upon arrival, in an inconspicuous place using a permanent marker.
Then I went back and labeled all the previously-made decorations as best as I could remember. Or guess.
Mostly, I guessed. I had a 50/50 chance of being right, right?
Learn from my mistakes and let this story be a lesson to you. When you’ve got more than one child you always think you’ll remember who created what because every piece of art is as unique as the snowflake who made it. You’re their mother, how could you ever forget?
Label that shit. Right now. I guarantee that by the time next Christmas rolls around, you’ll be wracking your brain trying to remember whose popsicle-stick-reindeer is whose. They all fucking look the same!
(This post originally ran on Please Stop Putting Crackers Down My Shirt)