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Coffee+Crumbs: On Cloth Diapers and Coming of Age in the Age of Coronavirus

My son just turned thirteen. His grand plans to take friends to a fully-immersive virtual reality experience are scrapped until further notice as we’re thrust into our own fully-immersive virtual reality called OUR ACTUAL LIVES RIGHT NOW.

His friends slipped cards in our mailbox and my parents dropped off presents in the driveway, air-hugging him from afar. Coming of age in the age of coronavirus is “essential business” and you can fight me.

Weeks ago (A lifetime ago? Who can tell anymore?), I found the cloth diapers I used on him. The smell of chlorine bleach wafted out at me as I opened the long forgotten bin in the back of his closet. Elliott still smells like this. He’s a swimmer and always exudes that chlorine smell, my favorite smell, the smell of hard work and flip turns. (Of course he doesn’t smell like that NOW, because the pools are closed indefinitely. I miss it. I’ll never complain again about driving him to practice every day. I have regrets.)

I stared at the diapers. Why did I still have these? I bagged them and lugged them out to the trash can. Goodbye, babyhood.

Elliott soiled and I washed them for years, then I ripped out the worn elastic and sewed in fresh elastic when we brought Evie home.

The diapers were the reason she came. Well, not really, but after our year wait for her adoption doubled to two years and her case never seemed to push through, I realized I wasn’t even ready for her because I’d been meaning to re-elasticize the diapers and kept putting it off. So tedious. But how could I be frustrated with the paper pushers in charge of her case when I wasn’t even ready for her at home? I spent days ripping out seams and sewing new ones, till the diapers that had stretched around Elliott’s chubby thighs were revamped and ready for Evie’s spindly ones. As soon as I finished the diapers we got the call. So it was the diapers that brought her home, and it was my readiness that brought her home, and it was perhaps just a coincidence.

Today the former cloth-diapered girl plays in our driveway while the neighbor girl plays in her own driveway. They parallel play in the age of coronavirus.

The former cloth-diapered birthday boy plays his new video game in the basement, trash-talking friends through his headset. He’s bigger than me, with huge feet and a deep voice. I look at baby pictures of my four-pound preemie. The diapers were bigger than he was. Somewhere along the way he caught up.

There’s a toilet paper shortage and I find myself thinking about the cloth diapers I’d just tossed out, wondering if I should’ve held onto them a bit longer. What’s one more month after thirteen years? The hemp liners especially could’ve been put to use. Reusable toilet paper? Have we come to that? Baby dookies are one thing, but adult smears feel like a crime against my trusty washing machine. On my weekly essentials run, I nab one pack of generic sandpaper toilet paper and feel lucky. KEEP READING

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