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Letting Go of the Shoes

When my first child was born I was so delighted when the midwife announced I had a little girl. All along I had secretly wished for a girl, even though I wasn’t sure I was actually capable of raising one. I was so afraid I would pass along my idiosyncrasies and issues. (I digress, as we’ve discussed this here before.) But from the moment I held her in my arms I was thrilled to be the mother of a girl. Once we were home, I played with her and sang to her and read to her. We rocked in the rocking chair and took long walks. We went to baby classes. I watched her sleep. We chatted constantly, and I whispered to her all the things I wanted her to know about the world. We had so much fun together. Clothing — something I never cared much about for myself — became part of our fun. I even staged little personal fashion shows where I would dress her in different outfits and take photos.

Right from the start many of the outfits were from Gymboree, a clothing store that sells cute matching outfits complete with bows, socks and shoes. I was a little addicted, to be honest. I purchased all the new lines as they came out and, when I got smart, bought things when they were 75 percent off. Sometimes, I even went on eBay to buy missing accessories and shoes if I couldn’t find them in the stores or outlet. As a result, my little girl had dozens of shoes, headbands and bows. Dozens.

This weekend my little one had her first communion. I went up into the attic to get the white, pristine shoes her sister wore at her first communion. (They were too big, but that’s not really relevant to this story.) While I was up in the attic I came across a box of little shoes I forgot I had. Many of them were the tiny Gymboree shoes that went with all those pretty outfits, long given away to friends, family or charities. I brought  the box downstairs and put it aside. Today, I spent time looking through them. Not obsessively. Just spending enough time to take a brief walk down the cliched memory lane.

Those shoes reminded me of holding my little red-haired baby. So squishy and chubby and sweet. They reminded me of all the fun we had. They reminded me of how proud I have always been to be her mother. Of her first words and first hugs. Of looking at her and having my heart ache because it was filled with so much love. They also reminded me how quickly time is passing. I walked into her bedroom, looking around at the mix of grownup debris and little girl toys. I thought about the young woman she is becoming. She is an excellent student. She draws. She plays piano and French horn well enough to play in the All County concert. She’s funny. She’s creative. She sews. Yes, she has some of my idiosyncrasies and issues. She’s anxious and worries about things. She’s very sensitive. She takes a while to warm up. And in that moment I realized how much I still enjoy being her mother, even when we drive each other crazy. And that I was wrong to fear being a mother of a girl.

As I sit here with rubber bands, tying the shoes together so I can drop them off to the charity thrift shop, I hope the next mother who holds them in her hands has as much fun with her tiny daughter as I did with mine. I hope she realizes how quickly it passes and enjoys every moment. It’s what being a parent is all about.

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