Category Archives: Mama Letters

Mama Letters: Cozy Things

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Did your mother or father make you anything while you were still in the womb or just a baby? Did you or your spouse make anything for your child? What is your child’s most favorite toy to cuddle and where did it come from? What was yours when you were a child?

Dear Ben and Alina,

When Ben hurls a block across the room at lightning speeds, he has to chant one of the family rules, “We only throw balls and cozy things”, which really is his translation of the “don’t throw things in the house”. I used to have mountains of stuffed animals as a child, and from what I remember, I never played with them or cuddled with them, I just refused to let my mom give them away. It felt like kicking my pets out to find another owner. So, my Dad got a long rod made for a closet- you know, for hanging clothes? He found one at the hardware store or wherever and stuck it into an old Christmas tree stand and fitted it with little gold hooks (also can be found at the hardware store). He then put rubber bands around all the necks of the cozy things that did not have ribbons or bows and hung them all. They filled up the whole thing, to the ceiling. It was extremely creative. And there they lived until I let someone put them in a box when I was fourteen.

2013_10_25-151838a thlMy mother sewed me a really sweet mobile¬† when she was pregnant with me. She said it was her first real sewing project. It was a satin cloud, with ribbons hanging from it, a tree, a star with bells at the points, and a sun. It was seriously so darling. My aunt made me a quilt and I remember having a brown teddy bear, probably the best looking teddy bear ever. I have a photo of me, maybe one year old, with those two things and I remember them well. I had a bean stuffed frog that I adored as a baby named (probably by my parents) “Froggo”. Oh I loved Froggo, forever and always. He was the perfect size and handy for chewing. I also had a zebra that I passed down to you guys named (again, by my parents) ZZTop. They were a famous band in the 70s. My parents were nothing if not clever.

My uncle built me a wooden rocker in the shape of an elephant with my name carved into the bottom, we have that, too. I kept that through high school. It was a Barbie house, and then became guest seating and on it’s side, a decent table top. It’s incredible how much you appreciate these efforts as you get older and realize what was truly involved. It does make me feel so loved to think about my mom rocking and sewing over the curve of her belly.

So, I continued the tradition and picked up a pattern and a sewing machine and sewed Ben a bear. I also sewed our good friends a bear for their baby, who was born within weeks of Ben. Ben’s bear is a pale blue with small white polka dots and a white nose. He is called Blue Bear and has been King of the toy kingdom ever since. I took monthly pictures of Ben with his bear and the dear handmade quilt made by my sweet friend Karen. When he was old enough, first Blue Bear and then the quilt went into the crib with him and they have been there ever since. He sleeps on top and wrapped around a very squished Blue Bear and I wonder sometimes why we even bother with a pillow.

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It was this love I had in mind when I learned how to make a quilt so that I could sew one for Alina. It was one of the hardest projects I had ever done but it turned out better than I could have hoped. “Dottie” her beautiful subtle greige bear with big white polka dots and purple ears and feet, uses the same materials. Sure enough, she is now fiercely attached to them and Dottie is one of the first names she could say. She often reads to Dottie at bedtime.20131227-224717.jpg

Every time we go on a trip, in goes Blue Bear & Dottie. They have other matching attachments, too- a glow worm and a glowing, er, seahorse. A turtle and a ladybug that shine star constellations onto the ceilings and make handy battery operated night lights. Two incredibly soft micro-fleece blankets embroidered with their names and dates of birth. Ben had a fishy mobile that played white noise and music and he was so in love with it. Alina has the mobile I made her while I was pregnant- birds that I sewed (yes, with matching material from her quilt and bear) on top of branches from the yard. It doesn’t make any noise but she loves it just the same.2012_12_05-1545092012_12_09-135221

How do these items transfer my love and protection so easily into the hearts of my children? It is a power not to be underestimated, and I am so grateful to have it.2013_06_28-162916c thl

Sweet dreams my darlings,

Mama

I hope you are following along and that this series is getting you thinking about the tradition of handing down stories to our children. Please share this with other parents, or pin it for inspiration. If you are writing along, please let us know in the comments! Reading each other’s stories helps us get new ideas!

Next week’s topic: First Day. Do you remember your first day of school? Or your first day starting a new job? What was your earliest memory of starting something entirely new and how do you think you handled those nervous butterflies? Did you have siblings or mentors to pave the way for you and get you comfortable, or did you just have to rely on yourself to set down new roots and routines?

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Mama Letters: Earliest Memories

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Your earliest memory- why do you think you have saved it for this long? What about it feels typical or atypical of your childhood? What do you hope your child’s first memory will be like?

Dear Ben and Alina,

I am always thinking about what your first memories will look like. I wonder if Ben will remember his preschool or playing at Charlie’s house. I wonder if he will remember sleeping in his sleeping bag in Grandma and Grandmpa’s living room. I wonder if Alina will remember watching Dora non-stop because girl you will not stop asking for it and it’s one of the only words you will say. The other night both your Daddy and I found ourselves up at 11pm watching Dora just to calm you down. Oh, the magic of cartoons.

One of my first memories is watching Sesame Street on a small black and white TV, set on a wooden table just above my toddler eye level. I would have been just almost two. I could make the picture skip up the screen like a film reel by messing with a little knob. It looked sort of like this one:

zenith vintage black and white tv set
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We lived in a country house just south of San Jose with hardwood floors and grass all around. My mother used to take me to see our neighbor-horse, Stormy, every day after nap. He was a beautiful brown horse. I don’t know if I remember that as much as I have a picture in my head of what it might have been like, or a combination or both. My mom told me about it so many times I could have made up the mental image by now.

Another early memory I have is the day that our landlords told us they had to end our lease at house in Ben Lomond. They were moving in, or selling the place, or something and we had to go. I didn’t understand that at the time, I just remember having some strange people over for refreshments on the red brick patio and then suddenly we were looking for the new house and talking about moving. I thought it was our home and had some scared feelings about why and how they could just turn us out. I was about three or four. I remember making my first friend in my new neighborhood. She had a big wheel, or I did, I can’t remember. Here’s what a big wheel looked like- although apparently we still have them around:

vintage pink big wheel
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I just remember riding it around in the road and talking to her. She would have been about 7 and I was only 4 but we played together for years. I remember my preschool. I have a small memory of arriving at school and having the place be pretty dark, maybe it was early on a winter morning. My mom brought me in and led me to a table with some other kids and drew me a big horse to color in. She said she did that almost every morning. I remember catching the bus to first grade, and what my teacher looked like. I remember meeting all of my first friends at that school. I remember kindergarten and a special musical we did as a class. I got to wear a kimono and put makeup on and spin a parasol around on the floor.

One day in kindergarten my very favorite friend, Lila, decided she wanted to play with another girl. My mom told me later how I cried to her about it and her heart just broke for me. She said that she told me to play by myself, maybe sing a song and that eventually I would find someone to play with again. So I made up songs and walked along the fence line, and eventually Lila decided she would rather play with me after all. It’s so strange to think of all the connections we have to our younger selves, but that is pretty much how I handle friendship strains as an adult. I just go play by myself until someone reaches out again. It has worked really well for me over the years.

I can’t wait to hear about what small bits of our life now stay with you guys to adulthood. Ben, you already blow us away with how much you understand and remember. I hope that means you are building some long term memories, because we have lots of fun. On Saturday you spent hours helping Daddy replace sprinkler heads and getting covered in dirt. On Friday you came home with skinned knees and instead of wiping them free of dirt, we soaked them in the tub for as long as it took. I hope you remember us being so gentle with you when you were hurting. Not the part where we had to demand that you get into the water. You poor thing, you were so scared it would hurt and we knew we had to get your knees clean so they wouldn’t get infected. Of course you didn’t understand that. I hope Alina remembers you yelling “I love you!” at her every night before bed, and dragging her bear Dottie all over the house.

I love you guys, I am so lucky to be making memories with you.

Love,
Mama

Next week’s topic: Did your mother or father make you anything while you were still in the womb or just a baby? Did you or your spouse make anything for your child? What is your child’s most favorite toy to cuddle and where did it come from? What was yours when you were a child?

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