I was almost to the bottom of the pile. Stacks of clothes begging to be sorted by size and season and gender, all discarded into a heaping mountain in the corner of the closet. A nagging mess that I would get to one of these days.
In an attempt to feign organization, I dove in. Slowly deconstructing the mass of sweet scented baby clothes, I busied myself with finding their place in storage bins and willing away the sentimental thoughts of how fast my children were growing.
I needed to complete this undertaking without tears or a long episode of staring into space.
My fingers slipped through soft, pink fabric, much too tiny for me to wriggle my daughter into, already a year old at the time. I folded the squares of sleeve back and began to tuck in a tiny line of snaps. Hadn’t I folded this once already?
Hadn’t my hands stack it gingerly into bin number one, already sealed?
This forgotten piece did not belong to my daughter who was living.
It belonged to the one who was not.
For a moment, a brief moment of the lingering delirium of grief and the desperation of a broken heart, I dared to turned around.
Was there one more crib in the room behind me, finally occupying that space of unworn carpet?
Her shirt was piled up just as the others. She must have been here to wear it.
The past year, nothing more than a nightmare and now, now I was awake.
I turned around.
Reality gripped my chest, my heart crumbled.
There were still two cribs where there should be three and the only piece of her in the room sat in a pearly box high atop the dresser.
I chastised myself.
Of course she was not here. What planet was I on? How could one of her things be laying here so carelessly? Why wasn’t it carefully folded, tucked away in her bin of untouched memories?
My attempt at organization was lost. My mind was frayed. Visions of the life that wasn’t swept me away in tears.
I was flooded with grief.
This tiny onesie frozen in my hands? One third of a gift, opened not long ago, splayed across my expanding belly. One for each of the girls and one in blue for their brother. My beaming pregnant self dreamt of it worn with pig tails and little jean shorts and matching socks.
Dreamt of it worn.
I look back on that woman sifting through the remnants of the first year, as if storing and labeling them would make sense of it all.
I was sinking in grief while dangling from hope. I should have been gentler on myself.
I wish I could have seen the moment for what it was: a brief second to have my daughter back, a time when she was treated just like the rest of the bunch… heaped in a pile of love, folded tenderly in my arms, blossoming into the next size.
This piece was written in response to the Red Dress Club prompt:
Write a piece – 600 word limit – about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet. Let us know how the item was found, what it is, and why it’s so meaningful to you or your character.
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