Volume 16 • Issue 24 |November 11 - 17, 2003


Stitches and generations repeating over time

By Sara Trappler-Spielman

You know how grandparents can be. They carry more pictures of their grandchildren on them than they ever did for their children. My mother, who has recently become a grandmother thanks to my five-month-old daughter, was in search for photographs of my baby to show off. She came across a sweet picture on her desk, so she put it in her purse to bring to her dressmaker. She proudly presented the photo to this old friend of hers, explaining that it was taken of her granddaughter a couple of months ago. When glancing closer, though, my mother realized that the stroller appearing in the picture looked different than the one my baby uses. It was then that she realized (with some embarrassment) that it was an old photograph of me as a baby. And, it wasn’t even the face that gave it away.

It’s eerie how history repeats itself through genetics. What I’ve discovered as a new mother is that history repeats itself in other ways too. Small things often creep up to remind me that childhood has passed. But what has caught me by surprise is that as a parent I am given another opportunity to experience childhood. Although I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a child, my baby helps me relive it, causing me to feel so far away from childhood and, yet, so young at the same time.

For example, I’m rediscovering the ticklish spots on the body by kissing her there and getting giggles in return. So I laugh back and get silly with her.

Each holiday or change of season is an exciting event now as I prepare my baby for it. As she reacts to new sights, tastes, and noises I rediscover my senses with her. And so she teaches me how to view the world through the fresh eyes of a baby.

Lately, I’ve been reminiscing more than ever. At the end of this past summer, when my baby was about three months old, I took a trip with her Upstate to visit my mother who was working in an overnight camp where I had spent summers as a child and adolescent. It’s been at least ten years since I’ve been a camper there. Returning married with a child of my own this summer, I found myself thinking a lot about my childhood.

As I revisited the old bunkhouses and watched the campers run around carelessly, I wondered how I got from then to now so quickly.

On the night of the blackout in August, the camp resorted to having a bonfire in the middle of the large field surrounded by bunkhouses. For old time’s sake, I decided to join. As I sat on the porch of one of the cabins facing the fire, my mind took a trip down memory lane. While I remembered my days as a camper, a young girl walked onto the porch and sat down near me on the bench. She didn’t look familiar, but, oddly enough, the nightgown she wore suddenly brought back memories. I knew I had worn something like it.

So I told this young girl that I remembered wearing the same nightgown. Laughing, she said, “Maybe it was yours.” She then explained that it had been passed down from her older sisters who had received it from a family friend. Curious, I asked her what her name was. Realizing then that our mothers were old friends, I recalled that my mother had given her family a lot of our old clothing. The timing of her appearance was so perfect it seemed staged. Now clothing from my childhood was resurfacing, attesting that I was a child once too.

When my daughter was born, my mother found an old-fashioned sleeper that I had worn as a newborn. It was one of the few things that my mother saved from what I had worn then. It took me a while to try it on my baby. The strangeness of the whole thing – that my baby can wear something I wore at that age – took some getting used to. I tend to forget that I was once that small and dependent. And, judging from her mistake with the photograph, my mom seems to forget too.


Downtown Express is published by
Community Media LLC.

Downtown Express | 487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A | New York, NY 10013

Phone: 212.242.6162 | Fax: 212.229.2970
Email: news@downtownexpress.com

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.