Originally published October 2013.
I used to dream about MAKING BANK at a yard sale. My little first-born, type-A heart wanted to WIN at yard-saling. I wanted to plan and organize to infinity and beyond: outfits washed and pressed and hanging by size. Or folded neatly into Zip-Lock bags, labeled and organized by season. The cutest clothes, the best prices, the best signage. Lord knows that between Madeline’s wardrobe and our Thomas the Train collection we could fund our retirement.
But then I remembered what it felt like to be twenty-two with a surprise baby and no money and a tiny apartment states away from every single person I knew except for my husband.
What it felt like was numb everywhere, all the time, with a heaping side of Crippling Fear and a tall glass of If I Stop Moving I Will Die. I remembered the faces of the people who gave me storage tubs and trash bags full of little girl clothes, and of how many seasons I didn’t have to buy winter coats. I remembered how it felt to be carried along.
It felt like a sisterhood, like hope.
Suddenly making bank at a yard sale didn’t sound so rewarding.
Last month I began to pray for a family. I asked God to send me a family to bless, to whom I could say, “Here. You don’t have to buy winter coats this year – or next year – or the year after that.”
Through my friends and some of you lovely readers I found a 16-year-old expecting a baby girl this December. I found an adoptive mother of 2 baby girls, one of whom is in chemotherapy. I found a Ukrainian couple, too far from family, expecting a little boy in November. I found a single mom, a brand new mom in grad school, and a mother of 5 under 7.
I folded and packed 12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and 1 million memories worth of baby clothes, and I shipped off every last onesie – every last dress and little pair of moccasins.
Giving away my babies’ clothes didn’t sting, like I was losing something I needed, but it ached, like I was losing something I loved.
The evening after I shipped the first box, I was sitting on the couch feeling achy and nostalgic when I got a message from a blog reader titled “ONH.”
Mercy. These are my favorite emails, even though they are always fraught with fear and sadness. This reader told me about her baby, eight months old, who doesn’t see like other babies see. She asked me about crawling and about introducing solid foods and about how we made it – how we are making it.
I wrote answers that seemed to come from a lifetime ago – things I would have forgotten had I not taken the time and discipline to remember.
I wrote about physical therapy and introducing textures and early intervention. I remembered how it felt to be twenty-two and to learn that my surprise baby had a surprise diagnosis - how it felt to go from knowing precious little about mothering to knowing Absolutely Nothing.
I remembered the faces of the people that told me they were sorry. The people that told me I was brave, and that everything was going to be okay. I remember the people who introduced me to their surprise babies with surprise diagnoses, and the people who carried us.
Friends, we carry each other. People carried me. People carry me still. I carry people, too, which makes my heart feel fuller than about anything else I do on the earth. (Except for maybe kissing my kids’ dimples and stroking their cornsilky blonde hair.) I could have consigned all those Ralph Lauren rompers for money, but I would have been poorer for it.
What I’m saying is this: if you have tubs of clothes sitting in your attic or your basement or in the tops of all your closets waiting for an eventual yard sale, maybe start praying for a family to carry. Then just ask – the need is everywhere and it is great.
If you have a story, tell it. If you have wisdom, share it. If you have experience, lend it. We carry each other along.
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*and eat them myself because you live too far away.