I'm doing what I always do when my Boy Scouts go on a week-long trip: I'm painting a room. This week they are at Sea Base in Florida, and I'm getting ready to paint the bedroom.
And like the mouse with the cookie, before I paint the bedroom, I have to paint the dresser. Before I paint the dresser, I have to unload each drawer, tossing some items into the give-away bag, some into a keep pile, and some things into the trash.
My top dresser drawer —the sock and underwear drawer— is the one where I keep little odds and ends of things that need to be kept, like the one little box with my original wedding and engagement rings. (You know, the ones that couldn't possibly fit on my finger after 25 years.) Another has all Jesse's Cub Scout and Boy Scout pins, another is marked "your bootee" in my mother's handwriting and holds a yellowed knit bootie. Mine, I guess.
There's a red satin pouch the holds my mother's rollerskate key and at least 5 ziploc baggies with baby teeth and one filled with blond hair. I don't know to whom this blond hair belongs, having had three blond babies, but I'm keeping that.
I found $100 in cash, about 300 random pennies, and the tag from the dozen roses that Randy gave me for our 10th anniversary.
I tossed out single socks, stretched out underwear, and more gift receipts that I could count. And I threw away most of the teeth. I mean, they're gross, and really—why am I keeping baby teeth? I found a sweet little card in my daughter's 5-year-old handwriting, a note from my mom, and my beloved uncle's obituary card.
And I was all business. I never even felt the tiniest twinge of melancholy—I swear I didn't—until that one little sock. It's just a plain white, stretchy baby sock, nothing special. We had dozens and dozens of little white socks for our three babies. We put them on their little sweet feet nearly every day.
You know those little, sweet baby feet? The ones with the ten perfect toes?
They get me every time, the memory of those tiny toes and fat feet. The way you take those feet to your mouth and kiss them when you change their diapers. The way they giggle and laugh when you do "This little piggy went to market."The way the toes curl and just how soft, how incredibly soft those feet are.
And that tiny white sock is probably the only one left out of all those dozens, and all three pairs of those baby feet are bigger than mine now. One pair is walking across the hardwood floor while he talks on his cell phone; one pair just drove to the coffee house to meet her boyfriend; and one pair is probably encased in fins, scuba diving in the Keys.
All those little feet.
That's what made me cry today, and someday I'll be sticking that little sock in a box, like my mother did with mine, and I'll just write "your bootee" on it. And my grown-up kids will laugh when they find it, because it says "your bootee." And I will probably get teary-eyed, remembering them as they are right this minute—at 21 and 16 and 13—, and how they were when they had little feet that wore white socks.