The Book

Judith C. Issette

© Copyright 2003 by Judith C. Issette


July 21, 2002

I remember when I first found my old baby book in a box in the closet. I
couldn't recall my mother ever giving me the book, but then, so many of my
keepsakes had been misplaced during my divorce. I had lost many of my
special mementos of my life in the past few months. When I was going through
some boxes of old photos, I came across a baby book wrapped in plastic. At
first glance, I was thrilled because I thought it was one of my son's baby
books. I thought I had lost them both. However, to my disappointment and
delight, it turned out to be the book my mother had lovingly made for me
nearly sixty years ago.

How strange it seemed to look through that old book. It was so old, and in
very poor condition. The pages were yellowed and brittle. The cover was
faded and torn, but I could still see the faded writings of my mother's
young hand. How happy she must have been when she recorded the day of my
birth. Of course, she was very sentimental and kept every little event for
the next four years. A lock of my hair, my little footprints, a wax birthday
cake candle, and even a crocheted baby shoe was amongst the mementos of my
early beginning. Mother had even added a few pictures of my parents and me.
They seemed so happy at that time as they celebrated each year of my
beginning with pictures, cakes, gifts, and friends.

When I touched each page with it's little baby artwork on it, I was reminded
of how much my mother must have loved her first born. How new motherhood was
to a sixteen year old, and how well she did with caring for a new baby. Oh,
she confessed to me later how she made a few boo boos with me. Actions like
wetting my hair, so it would curl every day, and then taking me outside in
the cold. She didn't think. She just wanted her sweet baby girl to look
pretty every day with all her curls. Well, I was cute all right, but ended
up in the hospital with double pneumonia. I know my mom didn't mean to cause
me to get sick. She was only a young girl trying to grow up herself, but she
quickly learned how to care for me, and wetting my hair was definitely out.

What new mother hasn't done dumb things with their children? When I look
back on my attempts at new motherhood, I sometimes wonder how my two sons
came out alive. My first child was the learning child for the second. At
least, my son, David, had the benefit of my experience by the time he came.
One time, I remember forgetting about my firstborn's head when I passed
through a doorway, and I accidentally hit his head on the doorframe. I
hadn't realized that it was sticking out that far. Duh? Thank God, it didn't
do any real injury. Of course, I was devastated that I had unintentionally
hurt my little precious baby, and was more careful after that. I was just a
young and learning mother also.

Another memory that comes to mind was the day I was bathing Jeff in the
kitchen sink. I had finished his bath, and was lifting him up out of the
water when I accidentally hit his head on the corner of the cabinet. Ouch!
My sweet baby cried terribly, and so did I. It was okay. My son paid me back
on occasion when I changed his diaper. He delighted in wetting in my face.
Yes sir, I learned quickly about that little action of boys. Thank God,
babies are so resilient, and don't break as easily as we think. Even though
we had a few boo boos, my little babes managed to survive my inexperience.

Again, I turned the old pages of the book, and paid special attention to the
handwriting of my mother. It seemed strong and self-assured with its letters
and words. The pictures of her showed a sweet and lively face of a really
beautiful girl. I wish I could have known my mother in her youth. I would
have loved to have taken long walks with her, and talked endlessly about her
girlish dreams and goals. I would have loved to share our thoughts about the
world, or our philosophies as we ate ice cream cones. I would have loved to
have known my mother in the prime of her youth, and seen what a beautiful
woman she had turned out to be on the day of my birth. I know we would have
been best friends then, just like we are now.

It's such a shame that our memories start so late in life. I can't recall my
mother rocking me to sleep, but I know she did with all the love she had
while she held me in her arms. I know she sang to me and talked baby talk to
me, but all that is a void in my memories. I wish I could have seen the
moments when my mother bathed me, and dressed me in my cute little outfits.
The times she curled my hair, and told me how pretty I was. The times she
made me laugh and giggle. If only I could recall the birthday cakes she
made, and sitting in the kitchen with her while she iced it. I know I must
have been a happy child with such a sweet mother to care for me. I may not
have those memories to recall, but my mother has left me a legacy. The old
baby book, which she so lovingly made, was a sweet reminder of a time lost.

I wonder if new mothers today make a book celebrating the birth of their
child. Is it something old-fashioned, and out of style now? Are mothers as
sentimental as we were in the olden days, or do they record such an event in
a different way? I know when I look back on the infancy of my children; I
have a wish list now. I made each of them a baby book, but I wish I had
spent more time on it. I wish I had saved more of their little baby items
and mementos. I wish I had guarded their book with more thoughtfulness. I
wish I had gone into more detail about their birth, and their first months
here on this earth. I wish I had been more sentimental and thoughtful of a
time that would pass all too soon. I wish that I had left a better legacy
for my children to someday look back at their book, and say, "Look at how
much my mother loved me."

Some might ask, "What's so important about a silly old baby book?" It wasn't
important to me when I was five years old, or even when I was twenty. I had
too many other interests to pursue, but it was important to my mother. She
hung on to it for nearly sixty years, protecting it and preserving it as a
legacy of my first years on this earth. As I look through that old book
today, its important to me now, and the thing I love the most about it is
that it is a part of my mother. We are bonded together for life through that
old faded and crumbling book of memories. A book I know my mother lovingly
wrote just for me.

Thank you, Mother.

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