A few hours ago, while the rest of my family was inside taking their usual spots at the kitchen table, I sat immobile in my daughter's old car seat on the floor of my garage, vision blurred and shirt soaked from tears.
I knew I should shake it off, take a deep breath and join them when I heard my husband ring the verbal dinner bell.
But I couldn't.
Weeks ago we found out our neighborhood was having a collective yard sale. Knowing a communitywide effort would draw more buyers, it was a no-brainer to participate while planning our first-ever household purge, even though the dates were less than ideal.
It was a painstaking process to come to the conclusion that our family of four is complete, but after much soul searching and discussion, my husband and I decided it was time to part with our baby items. All six years' worth of clothes, toys, bedding, coats, hats, swimsuits, shoes, bottles, sippy cups, receiving blankets - everything.
We carried down dozens of meticulously labeled 30-gallon storage bins, as well as piles of hastily tied together garbage and grocery bags (each likely correlated to the amount of sleep I was getting at the time). We piled all of them in the dining room and I thought to myself, "Just sort and price things one container at a time. You can do this."
But it was so much more complicated than that. Sure, figuring out the logistics of how I would group similar items, where I would put everything, and how I would ever get it all done in time was a challenge. But nothing compared to the knot that rose in my throat when I popped the lid off the first bin and stared directly into my daughter's infancy.
The little bear onesie we brought her home in from the hospital. The black polka-dot dress she wore for her first portrait session. The puppy hat with a chin strap she would chew on. And every other memory-filled fabric.
I called a wonderful and very understanding friend and asked her to help keep me on task because I knew doing the work with my husband would destroy our resolve. She listened as I relayed stories, celebrated in my joys and encouraged me to keep the few things I really treasured for both of my little ones. Two days and about 20 hours of sorting later, we were finally ready to load the garage.
But seeing it all with price tags, marked at a value that could never come close to what all of it meant to me, was too much. It sunk in, and all of our reasons for not having another child - no matter how strong - meant nothing.
So I did the only thing I could do. I sat down in a nearby car seat, priced to sell, and just let go.
Assuming I was compulsively organizing things, my husband came out to wave a piece of grilled meat under my nose in hopes of enticing me to join him at the table.
Instead, he sat down and joined me. Silently. Just understanding the moment and taking it all in. Both of us wondering whether we were making the right decision.
And right when I thought I couldn't do it:?that we needed to pull everything back in rather than hand off our priceless memories one dollar at a time, our kids stomped into the garage, demanding information on our whereabouts and whether we were skipping dinner for ice cream.
Then it hit me.
Yes, those clothes are full of cherished moments, but the real treasures are our children. Parting with those tiny outfits will be bittersweet, but the fabric of the life we've created is something we'll have forever.
Kelly Valeri is a former Altoona Mirror copy editor. She lives in Tyrone with her husband and two children.