Our clothes. We wear them for modesty because it is our cultural norm. We wear them to keep us warm and dry or to protect us from the sun. We wear them because we like the color or how they make us feel. We wear them for self expression. We wear them to identify ourselves with others who are like us or to separate us from those different from us. We wear them. And over time they become an extension of who we are.
For some reason I can not explain, we have been lucky in the kid hand-me-down clothing department. I call it clothing karma. We have been given and continue to receive clothes for our boys. The only things we have really had to purchase are underwear, socks, pajamas, rain boots, and the occasional swimsuit. This does not mean I don’t buy them any clothes because sometimes one must buy a small yellow Run DMC shirt but I can not tell you how many hundreds of dollars we have saved due to clothing karma.
Over the weekend we received four large bags of boy clothes from a neighbor of ours who has an older boy. I always get excited when I peek into a bag of hand-me-down clothing. To me they are not just clothes for my kids to wear, but memories worn by another child to which my children will add their own memories. I hold up a light blue button up shirt, slightly wrinkled but at one point pressed, and I wonder if a class picture or and Easter photo was taken in this shirt. I hang it in the closet thinking how nice Carter will look in it at our annual Christmas party.
With the influx of these new clothes I set to the task of purging the closets, starting first with Carter’s. I fold and refold shirts and pants he has long outgrown trying to find an excuse to put them back in the drawers. I save what he calls his party shirt, a brightly striped polo style shirt, even though his bellybutton shows when he raises his arms when wearing it. Party on, Carter! I make piles of clothes and am flooded with images of the boys wearing each item. They make me smile. Next I move on to Cody’s dresser and am able to put several item directly in Carter’s dresser. The others I put in large plastic containers under his bed carefully marked with size and season.
Then comes the hard part. I handle the outgrown clothes one last time as I place them into brown paper bags. The memories woven into the very fabric of these clothes, they can not go just anywhere. I would like them to go to a nice family who will appreciate and understand the gift they are being given; these are not just bags of used clothes. I call Cody’s occupational therapist and ask her if she knows of such a family and she does. When she comes over I have three bags lined up and waiting for her.
I choke up when tell her that in one of these bags is the winter coat Cody first learned to pull a zipper on. Zippers are not all created equal especially for a little boy with fine motor issues due to Cerebral Palsy. It was a huge achievement when he mastered them. When the zipper broke on this particular jacket I took it into a shop and paid way more than I paid for the coat (which I bought at a garage sale) for them to replace the zipper with a near identical one just so he could wear it longer. I told her that Carter was near tears when he tried on his Cars jacket from last year and it was too small. Carter and I had to talk about how it no longer fit him but that it could keep some other little boy warm and make him very happy. With a sad little voice Carter told me it was ok to put it in the bag.
As I was helping Cody’s therapist load the bags into her car she told me the name of the boy who would be given these clothes. She told me he had red hair. She told me a little about his family. For some reason knowing these things made it easier to pass along the garments of my children’s childhood.