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I'll Never Throw Away The Baby Things. Ever.

Photograph by Twenty20

I was talking to another mom a few weeks ago, and she was telling me about a big box in her closet filled with baby things that she could never part with because of the sweet memories attached to them. I nodded in agreement but was too embarrassed to tell her exactly how much I related to her dilemma, since I have not one, but FOUR big boxes of keepsakes tucked away in my own closet at home.

It's true, I have both of my daughters’ first onesies, a few of their favorite dresses and an assortment of eating utensils I can’t throw away because they remind me of those cherished years (yes, I washed the spoons before putting them away—I’m not a savage.) There’s an entire box of preschool art projects and schoolwork, restaurant placemat drawings and I think a ridiculous amount of stuffed animals.

I say “I think” because I haven’t actually looked in these boxes for years—I can’t physically get to them because of all the boxes of other mementos from my girls’ elementary, middle school and high-school years.

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Recently I confessed to a friend about my hoarding, I mean, preserving, and she looked at me with a look of both concern and disgust and said, “Saving a few things is normal. Saving boxes and boxes... Well…” She didn’t finish her sentence, and just motioned the waiter over to bring us some refills on our wine.

Unfortunately, my husband feels the same way. He’s a patient man, but a few months ago when were attempting to clean out a closet and he had taken down the third box marked “Baby Things” he wearily asked me, “Do we need to save all of their socks?” I pointed out that I wasn’t saving all of them, only the 10 or 12 really cute pairs that reminded me of their precious little feet. Then I told him to get back to work, that closet wasn’t going to clean itself.

The truth is, I have no intention of getting rid of these treasures.

But the one thing that really gets my husband howling is when I tell him I’m saving all of these things for our grandchildren.

Sometimes when I’m feeling crafty I fantasize about sewing all of their favorite dresses into a fabulous quilt or using their artwork to make a huge poster that takes up an entire wall. Maybe I’ll stuff their baby sweaters, glue on a couple of googly eyes and make a pack of scary knit animals, or crush down all of their plastic plates and cutlery and make a colorful, ugly mosaic. I say when you’re trying to preserve memories, the sky’s the limit.

But the one thing that really gets my husband howling is when I tell him I’m saving all of these things for our grandchildren. After he stops laughing enough to breathe, he says, “Do you really think our kids are going to want us showing up at their houses with boxes of their old baby things?” While pondering the stack of worn keepsakes in my hand I know he’s right, but I ignore him and move those stained bibs from the "Trash" pile to the "Save’"box.

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My mother died in September, and my siblings and I are now in the process of cleaning out her house for sale. It’s a long, slow task sifting through 80 years of memories. Her life was her family, and her possessions reflected that.

Among the things we’ve found are gifts that we’d made her in elementary school and pictures we’d drawn throughout our childhood. We found stacks and stacks of cards and letters from her kids and grandkids spanning decades of birthdays, Mother’s Days and Christmases—like me, it didn’t seem like she threw a single thing away.

It made me think of all those boxes I’m saving and how they’re a part of me I can’t let go of. So while you might call me a pack rat or over-sentimental, I take comfort in the fact that I’ve inherited this loving trait from my mom—the desire to hold on to those things that remind me of the most precious parts of my life. And while they may take up space in my house, they take up even more space in my heart.

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