Friday, May 21, 2010

Growing-up pains: Velvet Elvis will live forever

No. Not the Velvet Elvis.

I could handle the butterfly onesie, and even the one that said "Daddy's little girl." But my nugget was never going to outgrow the white velour PJs that we called her Velvet Elvis costume.
She stared up at me in drooling bewilderment as I tried to cram her 2-month-old chunky leg logs into the footie pants. I secured the final snap.

See? She fit. Sure, she couldn't straighten her legs and her knees were pushed against her jelly belly. But that was irrelevant. She was not growing up, as long as she still could wear the Velvet Elvis.

Bettie Anne was born more than a month early Feb. 21 with a Guinness Book amount of spiky dark hair that wouldn't lie flat, not even when wet. The Elvis was her first preemie outfit, a hand-me-down, like 99 percent of her clothes. The first time she smiled, she was wearing this white wonder.

I remember going through a car-sized box with my sis-in-law: clothes her daughters had outgrown. I remember her lifting up a dress, about to hand it to me, and then snapping it back against her chest.

"No, not this one. This was the dress she wore to her first Christmas."

It happened again, and again. Soon, she had her own pile of clothes that she couldn't use but couldn't let go of.

I remember wondering what she was going to do with those outfits. Put them in a box somewhere? A professional organizer had once told me never to hold onto clothes that don't fit for "emotional reasons."

I never would, I vowed.

I looked down at Bettie, cramped into a velvety ball of mama's denial, and I slowly extracted her from the PJs. I started to toss them in the box to consign, but snapped them back to my face and breathed them in -- just one more moment. In one inhale, I felt Bettie's childhood rush through me, and suddenly she was wearing lipstick and driving a car and going to prom (but just with a group of girlfriends because she wasn't going to date until she was 30).

I could almost hear myself saying in a crickety voice, "My, my, how she's grown," and feeling so old, and then wanting to punch myself for being one of Those People Who Feel So Old. Whatever, I was being ridiculous; my baby was never going to grow up.

I tucked the Elvis into my purse.

I found it there today, on my first day back to work, the first time I've been willingly separate from Bettie's little spirit since the day she decided to come to Earth.

Turns out, the Velvet Elvis is also a great handkerchief.