The Yard Sale Blues: nostalgia in a pile of junk

I found myself a little melancholy after the yard sale yesterday.

I’ve been boxing things up for months. As Henry and Tallulah grow out of things, I’ve been consigning, donating and saving things for the yard sale. Some things were easy to part with. Others I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of. It’s understandable to feel attached to a special outfit or a favorite toy, but some emotional attachments were completely unexpected.

While tagging and organizing, I stumbled across my breastpump. I wasn’t looking to sell it, it’s not sanitary to share lactation equipment, but I couldn’t even bring myself to throw it away. I unzipped the not-so-sleek-or-stylish black bag and found a tiny pair of blue socks, a CHOP burp cloth, breastpads, hand sanitizer and a picture of the babies (a lactation trick to speed your letdown and increase milk production). I was practically in tears. Breastfeeding was a huge part of my life. I trained (only partially) to become a lactation consultant, so it was obviously something that meant a lot to me. But the pumping part, well, it wasn’t the highlight of my tenure. I remember posting on Facebook at 2am that I thought the breastpump was talking to me. Now that is delirium! (Although, I am not the first person to have heard the pump talk!)

Now that I’m done pumping (and breastfeeding), seeing the pump and all its accoutrements gave my heart a pang. It brought back memories of the being in the NICU, clinging to the idea of feeling “productive” when all I could do was sit by Henry and Tallulah’s bedside. Stealing myself away from holding their little hands to go back to my room and pump every two hours. Desperately wanting the time to go by faster because I couldn’t stand even a second away from them. And then when Henry was separated from us and transported to CHOP, pumping was my lifeline to him. I needed that pump more than ever. In lieu of holding my baby, I sent him breastmilk.

So, my relationship with the pump is long and storied and while I don’t plan on having any more children, clearly parting with the pump was something I’m not capable of doing just yet. I think I may have to get it bronzed.

After smelling all the baby scent out of the burp cloth and baby socks, I walked out into the garage.

I happened upon a sand bucket of toys. A pretty common occurrence since we live at the shore, only this was Finn’s bucket of toys. As I was picking through it, I realized these things weren’t here by happenstance; they were all very deliberate. These were Finn’s favorite things (that week).

Finn's bucket

It was like a time capsule from his 5th birthday. His “yellow pee pees” were there. His “I’m 5 today” button was there. A Link-a-doo was there (something he was obsessed with last summer! He “linked” everything to everything! My house was one, big interconnected web!) It was all pretty heavy stuff. Certainly not a bucket of junk.

I stood there looking over Finn’s special bucket and felt sad and proud at the same time. I was sad because my little man is growing up, but so proud because he has come so far! My house is no longer a web of Link-a-doos and I forgot to even notice! I was too busy worrying about shuffling Finn off to my Mom’s so he didn’t get upset by the yard sale, I forgot to be thankful that he doesn’t cry over a lost “yellow pee pee” anymore (oh, come on, just click on the story, you know you want to!)

I also empathized just a little bit more with Finn’s attachment to inanimate objects. Here I am, a grown adult, feeling nostalgic over a breastpump, something that was once merely a necessary evil (and sometimes a late night conversation companion) and has now become a symbol of so much more. How can I blame him for loving things too hard? I have to remember that everything in his life doesn’t have to be a teachable moment. I don’t have to force him over these hurdles for the sake of overcoming them. (So what if he brings Legos to college?) Sometimes a bucket of toys (and a breastpump) are more than what they seem.

They are a snapshot of life.

They are tangible memories.

They are irreplaceable.

I may have to keep them forever.



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