The Gift that Keeps on Giving

“All you have to do is get the baby registry together,” my New York Mom Ronda said over the phone. “We’ll take it from there.”

I gripped the receiver and stared at it like it’d sprouted a head.

For weeks I struggled over the items I need for the baby. I lost sleep over the list. The list ruled me.

“How’s that list coming, Hon?” my friend Maggie, one of the three shower organizers inquired in a morning e-mail. An hour later she sent a text.

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know the baby needed things. What the baby needed, well that was the problem.

The SAT you can study for. The LSAT you can study for. Selecting things for a baby? You can’t select items that you don’t even know exist. In fact you don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it. Diaper Genie? Bompie Pillows? Who knew bottle nipples, like women, came in different sizes?

There were thousands of the little important items. But every one of them bowed to the tyranny of the stroller. I researched strollers in magazines. I watched videos online. Then I decided that I needed to go to the source.

“Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” I asked a twenty-something brown-skinned woman sitting beside me on the downtown B train.

She angled her torso away from me. Her left leg extended in front of the olive-green stroller, and the drowsy blond-haired baby  inside. She was wary. I had to work fast.

“So… ah, do you like that stroller?”

She flashed a row of perfect white teeth. “I LOVE it!” she said, relieved to share her first hand experience. The Maclaren, was a gem she assured me. ” Light-weight, snug fit,” she raved about it for three subway stops.

My friend Teraz had a different take.

“Well, as a new Mom you’ll hear all kinds of things, you really have to make your own decision. But I can tell you from personal experience that Maclaren’s are dangerous. My neighbor’s baby lost a finger in one of those strollers.”

“Hun?”

” The stroller recall was all over the news, about six months ago, maybe a year. A certain model was recalled. The company mailed a piece that parents to fix the problem, but personally, I wouldn’t risk it. Not after my husband had to start the day looking for a baby’s finger in the hallway with the doorman.”

I picked the Bugaboo stroller. Pricey yes, but lightweight, multi functions and no finger amputations.

For all the worry I did over the registry, Maggie, Ronda and Penny should have reminded me that women are independent creatures. When the day for the shower finally arrived, a bright Sunday afternoon on the 21st of November, I discovered that some friends sought the council of the list. Others had beat their own path to the land of gifts.

As I sat surround by friends and family, slurping my favorite champers, Pol Roget, and wrapping paper fell away, the registry wasn’t as important as I had thought. Sure there were things the baby needed. Some I received. Some I didn’t. I received gifts that moms said their kids loved, like the Baby Einstein First Aquarium,  and gifts they loved, like modern portable high chairs. Out of all the wonderful items that spilled out of colorful gift bags and boxes, the biggest surprises  I wouldn’t have found no matter how long Teraz and I searched the Buy-Buy Baby website.

My friend Jenny gave me a smocked yellow and blue striped gown that her mom started, and Jenny completed, after her mother’s  sudden death last spring.

Jenny Kales's Hand-Smocked Gown and Blanket

Close-Up of Smocking Detail

My college roommate, Vickie returned a baby quilt that I made for her twenty years ago. My hands shook when I saw the pink and blue squares and triangles underneath the tissue. ” You didn’t!” I said. Vickie beamed back a knowing smile from across the living room. Six or seven women gathered in close to see the quilt. Then I couldn’t see much after that, a hazy of tears washed over my eyes.

The Quilt That Came Home

“You know,” it great that you have those things” my friend Jill said, as we took a chat break at our Soho advertising agency office, the Monday after the shower. “Now you have things to hand down in your family.”
I nodded. But I knew they were more than items to hand down,or to store in moth balls or between layers of tissue with sprigs of dried lavender or blocks of cedar, they were icons to celebrate now, symbols of friendship and longevity— a knowing that words really can’t describe.

They will deliver a soft comfort to my daughter, in the night, during the days when nothing else can. It’s only when Tayech is older will she know enough to ask her mom why something as simple as a quilt and a gown can , at the oddest times, make her mother cry.

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