When I told my five-year-old we could work on bikes this week, I had no idea I would be blindsided by nostalgia. A friend gave us one of those tag-alongs a few years back and Bea has been pining to use it.  She’s outgrown the child seat but not quite ready to go solo. So out came the bikes and the tools and I slowly figured out how to assemble the thing. During the test drive we discovered a bar that attaches her half-bike kept scraping something on the back of mine. I took a look and realized the problem: there is a protruding metal rack where a child seat can attach. It needed to be taken off.

I hesitated, realizing that the child seat rack had been on my bike since 1998, before my oldest could walk. Totally unbidden came a wave of emotions and memories. Cue the nostalgic music (“Sunrise Sunset” or Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” were my mental soundtrack). As the wrench loosened the screws I watched a slideshow in my head of me schlepping my kids around on the bike. There is Jonah, calling to the ducks as we ride along the Charles River. Now I am in the White Mountains, pregnant and pedaling for all I’m worth as 18month old Georgia urges me on and shouts “Fastoh! Fastoh!” The scene changes and my sweet Millie is behind me, sucking her thumb and happy as a clam to be hauled around the neighborhood like an empress in a litter. And finally it is last August. I am at the Cape with Bea in tow, heading to Coastguard Beach. She chats a lot and I enjoy her running commentary on the sea grass and gulls.  My load is heavier hauling a kid, but so companionable.

When the rack was detached I found a small bag for the screws and put them all on the shelf with the bike seat that I will not use again.  But I can’t get rid of it. Not yet. The montage of my kid’s as little tykes on bikes is still too fresh.

I tightened the tag-along, secured Bea’s helmet and we went for a spin around the block. We were both a bit nervous at first and had to figure out how to balance.  Once we got our groove she realized that instead of being a passive passenger, she could pedal.  Her little legs churned like a windmill.  I stopped pedaling and was amazed that the bike just kept going.  We stayed like that for a while, me coasting, Bea pedaling and chatting, and it was a beautiful ride.

What items that you no longer need do you hang on to? Why are some things so hard to part with? What things embody your memories?

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11 Responses

  1. Corktree says:

    I’ll have to think about my answer to the questions, but I just have to say that I LOVE this post and the descriptive memories of your children in the seat. Makes me miss Boston and NH all the more, but this was a lovely read.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Ah, this is so timely for me…Emma has outgrown her baby swing (well, she hasn’t outgrown it physically–she just hates it), a big, cumbersome thing that my husband keeps asking me why it’s still here. It just sits in my living room, and it’s the first of many baby things that won’t be used again by my children.

    And, I still can’t believe Bea is 5!

  3. Two of Three says:

    Like Corktree, your post made me miss home. I am from Maine, but I live in AZ.

    My cedar chest is full of things I can’t let go. Hannah’s first pair of big girl shoes, Leah’s first grocery list that she wrote “all by herself” and Sophie’s first prosthetic arm with the bunnies all over it! I once told my mother that I was saving these things for them someday. Mom told me, with the wisdom only mom’s have, that they were not my children’s memories, but mine. No one will love these things like I do. They are a connection to the little children that are now gone. Teenagers have taken their place. Knowing me as well as I do, I’m sure I will be stuffing old school ids and prom tickets in my cedar chest!

  4. Caroline says:

    Beautiful post, Heather. I know exactly what you mean. Though I’d kind of like to have another child, it’s probably not going to happen. So every time I look at Alexandra’s clothes or shoes or blankets and think that they’ll never get used by my family again, it’s a bit sad.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Heather, what a wonderful post!! (sigh, missing Boston so much!!)
    We moved to a new house last June and of course had to box everything up. A few of those boxes weren’t opened up very quickly as they contained things we really didn’t need on a regular basis. Some of those boxes were ones containing all of the children’s books my kids grew up with. Since they are 15 and 12 now, they don’t clamber up on my lap with “The Stinky Cheese Man” or “Lilly and Her Purple, Plastic Purse” anymore. As I opened those boxes recently, each title brought back vivid memories of cuddling on bunk beds, lazy afternoon picnics, and nighttime rituals. These books are part of the precious memories I have with my kids. These books allowed us to go anywhere, do anything and be anyone. These books were what turned my kids into book-devouring read-a-holics. I will never get rid of them….

  6. Stella says:

    I keep all my cameras. Even the old, crappy ones from childhood. They make me happy. I have a polaroid that there is no longer film made for it, but I still keep it around.

  7. Linda says:

    Ah Heather –
    Another fabulous post. I can almost smell the salt air and hear the sea gulls squawk. I love your writing. And your brain.

    I became a grandmother on April 10th and that brought a full-on chorus of Sunrise-Sunset and used up a lot of tissue. My daughter, now the new mom, reminded me of something I won’t be getting rid of any time soon. When she was young and I would occasionally go away for a weekend (Exponent retreats, probably), she got the red handled kitchen tongs and slept with them as a token of me. Back in those days our regular Sunday meal was Ramen noodles given a little nutritional enhancement with an egg. It was a fave with the kids. She had essential memories of my using that utensil to lift out and serve our shared feast. (I refuse to believe it has any natal reference to her forceps delivery. :-))

  8. Heather says:

    Sniff, sniff. Thanks for the beautiful post. I’m just starting up that hill myself with my good friend Craigslist by my side. Crag is doing a great job of dejunking my house as I find the courage to release the little morsels of my childrens’ babyhoods, one by one. Baby swing, bouncy seat, preemie clothes. Ouch.

  9. Kmillecam says:

    This post is so timely for me as my youngest reaches two and we are moving in a week or so. I’m giving away toys and clothes and things that I’m attached to. But I’ve decided to keep a little bit that my boys might like to have later, or maybe even give to their children. What a lovely post, thank you Heather!

  10. Linda Andrews says:

    I never had kids, never will, but like to think I have participated in parenting a few. Thus, I for many years had one or two car seats (rather permanently) in the backseat of my car. Both have been sitting in my storage room (which I pay for by the month). About ten days ago I looked at then with a pang of recognition that I really do not need them and should pass them along. Paying to store these car seats seems ridiculous, yet am I really ready to let go of the possibility of stepping in? I don’t think so. Not yet. This is one time I know what a mother feels.

  1. July 20, 2014

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