Perfectly Pink| December 27, 2022
It’s neatly folded, all the matching parts there, ready to be put on display. But the thing is, they don’t really match
Our new baby girl’s eyelids are gently locked as she slumbers, her rose-colored, crinkled ears and tiny fists hanging two inches above the mattress. She’s going to need clothing beyond the one stretchy we took her home in from the hospital. I can’t wait to pull out Gittel’s box of lace ruffled dresses and jeggings. We’ve given most of it away by now, but I saved a few special things. Like the kiddush outfit: a pink knit sweater with matching pants and hat. I think there were booties, too, which she never wore because her feet were so tiny.
There’s a pile of bins in Yaakov’s room and I know it’s hiding there inside one of them. So one day I search and sort and make piles of what we could still use, what to toss, what’s cute but the wrong season.
And there it is — the kiddush outfit. It’s neatly folded, all the matching parts there, ready to be put on display. But the thing is, they don’t really match. The hat and the booties and the pants are all cotton-candy light pink, but the sweater....
A few days after the kiddush I’d put in a load, and being a new mom I didn’t know about things like whites, blacks, lights, and mixed. So I just threw it in the machine, along with everything else. I think I put in some baby detergent, too, because people said that makes the laundry soft. And when the sweater came out, still wet, I couldn’t tell that anything had changed. But the next Shabbos it became painfully clear; this dainty piece had turned gray… ish. It had lost its pristine glow, the newborn feel of something not yet tainted by a world of mistakes. I looked at it — my mistake.
I thought maybe it would help if I washed it a few more times, but to no avail. What was done was done. It was pink, but not the same pink as the pants or the hat or booties. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it, though the sight of it made me cringe. Everyone else thought the sweater was cute; they had no idea that under her blanket the pants were a different color. Only I could tell the story of the mishap that had irrevocably changed its appearance.
My little girl grew and the sweater was stored away. She went through much more clothing, and I made many more mistakes. Sometimes it was the laundry, sometimes the dishes. Sometimes it was my patience or my temper. Too many sweets or not enough veggies. Too giving, or not forgiving enough. Her eyes were no longer shut — they saw everything, understood more and more that Mommy isn’t perfect.
Day by day, I watch her innocence fade. She goes to sleep at night with her face gently grazing the pillow, and in her world of dreams, all the sweaters are perfectly pink. But she awakes each day to the reality of homework and social circles, of parents who try their best but don’t always make it. And she sees that life is more complex than we would like.
Looking again at the sweater, a tear begins to roll down my cheek. I don’t want to keep it, this reminder that some things can never be taken back. Regret and forgiveness only go so far. Will she forgive me?
But now with my new baby, I’m being given a second chance at perfection. That’s what I want, right? This time around I can wash everything just the way I’m supposed to, according to the label instructions. And of course, I’ll never make a mistake.
I’m about to toss the sweater, along with the mistakes of the past, and I pause. I think of the baby who rested in this outfit. My precious little firstborn. The one who made me Mommy, who knows me in a deeper way than any other child could. She saw my failures, but my triumphs, too. The way I learned to bump her grocery-filled stroller up the stairs. The time I took her on a bus ride to nowhere just for fun. The cakes we made together that I could never serve to guests because all you could taste were the sprinkles. The songs I used to sing her to sleep with each night, and the nights when I was too tired to sing and we just sat. The nights when she cried and I held her hand. Her life hasn’t been perfect, but it’s sprinkled with happy memories. And I’m happy I’ve been able to give her that.
And in that moment I decide that for now, I’m going to keep this sweater, even if our new little girl wears it just once. She’ll get new sweaters in today’s styles and colors. But this one will remind me that I don’t want to erase the past. I want to store it in a box for posterity and be able to take it out from time to time. Mommies can make mistakes and that’s perfectly fine.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 824)
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