I think there’s always a certain nostalgia when you dress your children in hand me downs from their bigger siblings. You remember buying it, you remember how it felt to be so new to the mothering game, and how tiny and sweet your little baby looked, and how tiny and sweet their sibling looks, compared to the enormous child your eldest appears to have become. A little set of pirate vests, a pair of pink bunny bootees given to Kitty, a London Zoo t-shirt bought for Kitty by H and now adored and requested on a daily basis by Elma.
In our family we have a babygro that was handed down to us by H’s aunt. It’s been worn by his cousin (who’s 18 months or so older than Kitty), then by Kitty, Elma, my small nephew, and now most recently Pip and it’s still going strong. I love that all the children have that connection, and from a purely practical point of view it’s been very handy to operate a sort of lending library of baby clothes amongst ourselves.
It’s also given a few thing huge sentimental value – and probably guaranteed that I’ll be hoarding them forever.
But that’s just the things that H or I bought, or that we were given. Then there are the things that I made. There are teeny tiny baby jackets knitted for each baby and tucked away especially for them; a vast array of wooly hats and warm mittens from Kitty’s first winter; summer dresses, cardigans and jumpers. In my mind a little hand knit something isn’t just a useful item of clothing, it’s a gesture of love, a giving of time and skill.
Love given to Kitty and then packed away carefully and saved for her sister.
For the most part Elma’s assimilated them all into her wardrobe and as she’s generally worn them in a different season to Kitty, or with different top or bottoms there hasn’t been quite so much of a visual deja vu in these last few months. But then came the cool, slightly crisp and very autumnal day this week when I went digging in the wardrobe for something a little warmer than the usual rotation of leggings and a t-shirt and I found this;
And remembered this:
My lovely four year old at one and a smidgen in what would have been her birthday dress were it not for the fact that even at one she was rather tall and I had to order an extra ball of yarn to add a bit more length to it.
And suddenly it doesn’t seem a moment since this fitted my biggest girl.
I remember knitting it, watching the rainbow stripes go round and round, and dressing Kitty in it, and how plump and warm and snuggly she felt in it.
In the day to day it’s easy to miss the subtle changes in the girls as they grow older and taller and move from babyhood to toddler and toddler to little girl (Pip on the other hand is still growing before our very eyes), but this was a reminder, a very visual illustration of just how much has changed.
The same dress, the same season and the same garden, it’s easy enough to see the similarities in the two girls, and I think they get more and more alike in looks each day. But I can see the differences too, in the darker hair and the grey eyes, not to mention the fact that it’s taken Elma a whole extra eight months to fit into it, and even now it’s a little long, and also in their personalities.
And I know that just as Kitty sprinted through it in the course of a winter, come next spring it might not fit Elma either. And just as much I know that I’ll wash it, fold it gently and pack it away until somewhere in the family there’s another little girl to wear handmade handmedown love.