She started it, I had to finish it

A few weeks ago, I was hacking away at the jungle called the spare bedroom and in doing so, I ran across my baby book.

Yes, my own baby book which is unfortunately now so old the pages are turning as yellow as my skin is turning wrinkly.

As I flipped through it, a definite trend emerged.

There is one photo of me as I turned a week old. There is a second photo of me, as I’m being baptized.

Then, fast forward to when I was 23 months old and there’s a photo of me with my first sibling.

I remember an explanation from my mother how the reason there were so few photos of me as an infant was because they were too broke to buy a camera.

I have to say, however, there was no lack of attention as my mother went to great lengths to chronicle the astounding feats of her firstborn child.

In the beginning of my life, my mother carefully listed all the gifts I received.

She wrote how a Father Sudbeck baptized me, that I wore a yellow outfit for my trip home from the hospital.

She wrote that I laughed out loud for the first time at 2 ½ months, I noticed my hands at three months, I held up my head at a remarkable three weeks (I have no idea if that’s normal, that’s just what she wrote), that I smiled at 2 ½ weeks.

She even clipped off a lock of my hair at my first birthday and chronicled my weight as I grew.

Apparently, I decided to walk at 12 ½ months and laughed the whole time I made my way across the room.

When I could talk, I guess I thought flowers were pretty, all forms of food were called “pie,” every sound outside was a “truck” and I loved to imitate people.

I was so impressed with the amount of attention my mother paid to me, as she wrote down even the dumbest of things.

But I noticed after a few pages, she chronicled a new word I could say. It was “Terry,” which is the name of my first brother.

While my mother continued to write down details of my life, I noticed that once the word “Terry” hit my vocabulary, life had changed.

Mom’s dedication to writing down the smallest of nuances in her first baby’s life seemed to wane slightly. Things were more generalized – so I reasoned it was because she also had a second baby book to write in, at that point.

But she plugged along, noting I loved books, music, dancing and reciting the words from commercials (radio and television).

No one said I was a normal child.

Apparently I consistently saw Jesus smiling at me, they had to cut off a bottle cap that got stuck on my finger and she had to dig a kernel of corn out of my nose. Good to know.

As I grew older, I made sure to tell the ushers in church that I didn’t have any money when they came along for collection, and for whatever reason, I had a habit of saying “My chuckwagons are hot.”

Again, I never claimed to be normal.

Meanwhile, as my mother wrote, she continued to be pregnant and added more siblings to the group. The writing became less and less detailed.

Then I turned the page and saw the stark reality of when I was clearly no longer the only child or even one of a few.

When the book got to the fourth year, my mother’s handwriting was no longer there. Apparently, I had taken it upon myself to fill in my baby book because it was thereby neglected.

I scribbled about getting a pair of “good cotton socks” and a chalk board for my birthday.

For my fifth birthday, I wrote with bad penmanship and even worse spelling that I played a lot of fun games and my cake had pink frosting.

At six, I wrote that I liked to write stories and poems and wanted to someday have them published in the newspaper. I also said I had a doll named Smarty Pants and I would like to be seven years old.

Long gone were the detailed memories of my every breath and heartbeat, as my mother at that point was clearly way too busy with all the other kids to relish my every move, every dirty diaper, every delightful strand of hair from my head.

Isn’t that the case with all parents – back then or today? With that first child, every single moment is an act of God, a miracle of nature, one of the greatest wonders of the world – well, until the next one comes along. And in this case, the next and the next and the next and the next and the next and the next.

This old, hand-written baby book is surely evidence that it’s just the way life is.

I see the baby book ends at the age of seven. And of course, I had to close it out because my mother was too busy raising the other ones.

The closing segment reads, “Well, it’s time to say good-bye. It has been a fun and interesting 7 years. The rest of my life is in my scrapbook. Sincerely, Melanie Herself.”

I guess when you are the oldest in the family, there comes a time where you have to take matters into your own hands because the other hands are too busy.

And I laugh as I see the transition with my own eyes, so many years later.

My mother started the baby book with grand and dedicated intentions.

So what if she couldn’t pick up a pen because her hands were too full of dirty diapers and bottles to follow through? Fortunately, she taught me a thing or two along the way so I could finish it myself.

That’s all part of the natural transition anyway, isn’t it?


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