Pajamas of Days Gone By

Photo: Baby sleeping in footie pajamas covered in green dinosaurs. Text: "Pajamas of Days Gone By / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

A pair of pajamas can make me choke up these days. Not just any pajamas, of course. Just the panda onesie. Or the fleece pajamas with the rocket ships. Or the ones that say “Out of this world!” Looking at them, I breathe deep and stare off into the distance, as if my younger son’s infancy was years ago instead of weeks.

I remember his tiny hands being lost in the sleeves of the onesie with the mama and baby panda on it. When I picked it out as his first proper outfit, I was only considering how cute the design was. I had no idea he’d make his appearance a month early and barely over five pounds. As we pinched the snaps around his wiggling bottom, it hung loose around his tiny body.

I remember my glee at receiving the space pajamas. Covered with petite planets and moons, they were perfect for a sleeping little person. I was also tickled because they reflected Little Bird’s dramatic entrance into the world, coming only two hours after I finished an interview with NASA. They had little pockets on the sleeves, so I could tuck his hands in while he slept. If we didn’t tuck them in, he’d rake his fingernails across his face, causing little red gashes near his eyes.

I remember his little feet fitting into the claws of the dinosaur pajamas, folding over each other. As he slept, he’d hold his hands over his face, protecting himself from the world. His face was flushed; the skin on his hands wrinkled. Still adjusting to his early entrance, he slept all of the time, resting in his pack-and-play or crib.  When he was awake, he’d squint his eyes, giving him a perpetually confused expression.

I remember zipping up the fleece rocketship pajamas, hand-me-downs from his brother. I sniffled a bit when I put them away the first time and my fondness for them hadn’t faded. They are the perfect kids’ pajamas: footie, fuzzy, and inspiring imaginative dreams. They were perfect for the tiny newborn who grew into a curious baby. The first time I put them away, I reflected on how I would personally miss them as I neatly folded and placed them in a large plastic container. The second time, I chucked them onto his bookshelf, knowing that I would never be able to hug either of my wiggly little boys in them again.

And last night, I wrestled him into the forest pajamas, with their line-drawn scene of waving trees in front of a river. They’re originally from my best friend in junior high, who I had a falling out with in high school. We reconciled as adults, via old-fashioned letter writing. When Chris and I first received the size nine month pajamas when Sprout was born, Chris exclaimed, “He’ll never fit in those!” Of course, newborns reach their first birthday faster than we can anticipate. When Sprout had long since outgrown them, they went to Little Bird. While his skinny body still doesn’t fill them out, the feet are getting tight. This might even be the last time he wears them. Retiring these pajamas from my friend feels particularly momentous. In high school, as we stood in the staircase with her silently daring me to go talk to Chris instead, it was impossible to imagine her sending pajamas for my and Chris’s child. And yet here we are, her with three kids and me with two, all of them too big for these baby pajamas.

We outgrow pajamas, habits, old scars. While my babies have outgrown these pajamas, I they still mean so much to me and my process of growing up as a parent. Even though we’ll be giving them away to another baby that needs them, some part of them will always stay with me.

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