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The Wild Ways Parents Preserve Their Kids’ Memories

“It’s important to understand that there are a bunch of reasons someone might want to save something,” said Jennifer Stoltz Favus, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and mother based in New York City. Children grow up fast, she said, so attaching memories “to something physical or tangible” — like an umbilical cord stump, perhaps — can help parents better remember and reconnect with the time when their children were young.

This made sense to me, but I wanted to know more, and I was curious to see if many other moms shared my penchant for preservation. I posted in a Facebook parenting group I sometimes loiter in, and asked mothers to share the strangest things they had kept from when their children were young. I was surprised to find that I was not the sole saver of strange items. In fact, I wasn’t even, in my opinion, the weirdest collector.

“I saved my son’s foreskin,” said Casey Revkin, 42, chief financial officer of an immigration nonprofit and a mother of one. “I don’t know why. They asked me if I wanted it and I said yes. It’s in a container in our freezer.” Revkin said that it’s been challenging for her to throw the foreskin away. But she doesn’t know what else to do with it, besides keep it chilled among the frozen veggies. She’s had it for five years.

“I saved two pieces of paper that my daughter stabbed with a pen about 100 times,” said Ahna Tessler, a 40-something comedian, photographer and mother of twins in Manhattan. Her 2-year-old daughter handed one sheet to her, and one to her husband, while Tessler and her husband were in the middle of a fight. “Our argument so clearly traumatized her and she wanted it to stop but she had no idea how to express that,” she said.

Megan McQuillan, 44, an actor, community organizer and mother of two daughters in Brooklyn, kept her first child’s umbilical cord, which was a gift from her doula. “She shaped it into a spiral, then dried it out and gave it to me a few weeks postpartum,” she said. “It’s so weird and gross, but I can’t throw it out.”

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