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Home on the Range

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mother in possession of two daughters must be in want of a son. At least that’s how it seems here in San Antonio, where complete strangers can’t help but ask, “So, are you going to try again?” after glancing meaningfully at my second baby daughter. Lovely as it might’ve been to have a strong-backed lad to work the fields and carry on my husband’s family name, I’m quite content with my two missies and have zero intention of trying again.

One of the best things about accepting that your fruitful, multiplying days are over is getting rid of all the baby crap. I’ve watched enough HGTV makeover shows and squandered enough hours mooning over the pristine mudrooms in magazines like Real Simple (“organization porn,” I call it) to view the act of de-cluttering as my ticket to a higher plane of existence. What modern-day hausfrau doesn’t believe that a shopping spree at the Container Store might just tame the chaos within? So I approached the big purge with zeal. I returned the space-chewing Ocean Wonders Aquarium Swing to a friend who couldn’t have been less thrilled to see it. On “bulk pick-up day”— the suburban homeowner’s highest of high holy days — I divested myself of the refrigerator-sized boxes used to ship baby gear. I tried to pawn off my daughters’ onesies and my Earl maternity jeans on fertile-seeming friends, but, finding no takers, I bagged up much of it for charity.

Alas, I can’t pretend that I’m all (tax-deductible) generosity. I also saw this as an opportunity to make a little extra cash off the books. Once upon a time, a hausfrau would call this her “mad money.” I just call it my Starbucks money. I use a debit card for all my purchases, from the lowliest latte to the triple-digit H-E-B visit, and I track each transaction on my online checking account. Ahem, my joint online checking account. See where I’m going with this? I don’t need to have that conversation again, the one about how we could put more into the kids’ 529 plans and buy the new Toyota hybrid with the cash I blow on iced, non-fat chais every month.

After researching the eBay market, I figured it would be easier and equally profitable to try my luck at a local resale shop. I cockily assumed they’d be rolling out the red carpet for me and my armloads of Hanna Andersson outfits. But when the saleswoman pursed her lips, Church Lady-style, at my slovenly folding, I started to feel as if I were in seventh-grade home economics again (i.e. very confused). Nearly half the stack was spurned on the grounds of its being out of season (who knew San Antonio had seasons?). Still more were rejected after an intense examination revealed microscopic pulls and sweet-potato ring-around-the-collar. A handful of outfits were deemed acceptable if I took them home and ironed them. Do people really iron clothes for babies — these same babies who frolic in dog-water bowls and spit pureed peas? Babies should be happy we even bother washing their clothes, honestly.

In the end, the Church Lady purchased 23 percent of my castoffs, and I received 37.3 percent of what the store planned to charge for them. Or something. I didn’t quite grasp the equation, but I skulked out with about $60. Later that day, I sold my library of pregnancy tomes at Half-Price Books, scoring 18 bucks that I promptly blew on a cache of Little Golden Books for my little ladies. So much for de-cluttering.

I suppose that trying to contain the rich mess of family life in neat rows of taupe linen shoeboxes is tempting, but ultimately futile. Today I’m getting rid of bouncy chairs and onesies —
tomorrow it’ll be PBTeen futons and prom dresses. Even the empty nest is never truly empty. Just ask my parents, who are still trying to get me to take boxes of old report cards and bad poetry. But transforming a fraction of the clutter, however infinitesimal, into mad money? That’s just good sense. So when my baby grows out of her 9- to 12-monthers, I’m bringing them straight to the Church Lady — still warm from the iron. And next time I order an iced, non-fat chai latte, I’m gonna make it a venti.


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