On Hand-Me-Downs

Each year in our local “not-quite-metropolis” there are huge consignment sales from the Mothers of Multiples group, where I go and rummage through an enormous warehouse to find my children’s (the youngers) clothing for the next 12-18 months. Generally items are about $.50-$1.00, and I can leave well equipped for both Miles and Ruth (including shoes, and a couple of well-worn toys) for less than $100.

The next sale is scheduled for this Saturday morning, so I do my pre-sales preparation, where I go out to the storage area and rummage through tubs of clothing to find out what we have in each child’s sizes, what I’ll need for the fall/winter/spring/summer to come, anticipate growth patterns, and make a checklist for each child’s needs. Generally I leave babies with Nathan as we get up at 5:00 a.m. to wait in line for the 7:00 a.m. warehouse opening, and take Addison and Rebecca along so we can divide and conquer. It’s a nice little tradition, and I can’t thank my girlfriend Dawn enough for introducing me to the sale.

This year, though – funds are tight. We’re doing the whole, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else,” and while also saving up to replace our hobbling-along refrigerator (compressor is going out), funds are just tight. No way around it. My work load has been cut since colleges are reluctant to give part-time faculty a full load to avoid paying insurance (and please note, I am a fan of the health care plan, so I’m not bagging on Obama for this). I understand the dollars and cents of adjunct faculty issues. Nathan’s going to have to travel for work (out of state), and we always try to minimize our expenses to minimize his time away from home, the kids, and our bed. So, although getting clothing for 2 kids for a year + for $100 is a heckuva deal, I wasn’t looking forward to spending it, regardless.

Hence my trip to the storage tubs, where I finally opened the bags my brother has been faithfully shuffling my way from my beautiful niece, Ella Mae. As I sort through bag after bag after bag, I was ready to weep. I’m getting weepy just writing this. It was the MOTHERLOAD of hand-me-downs. Nathan quips Ruthie could wear a different outfit each day, but he’s a man, and somewhat exaggerates anything having to do with clothing or underestimates just how much a woman needs. Still, an incredible amount of clothing, and absolutely adorable clothing – what a blessing to have sweet Ella’s diva duds! Who would have thought my brother could pick out such cute clothing, additionally??!? So, lots of gratitude as I’ve rewashed and folded up the baskets I brought in. Mind you, all of this is just 2T, 24 months, and some smallish-looking 3T stuff, so all can be worn in the next year. There’s every range of weather needs (truly, all season). This stash below is *just* what I cleared out of storage — she still has a dresser full I have to sort through for what still fits, what’s out of season, and what we’ll hand-down ourselves.

P1060027      P1060028

As I’m folding, Nathan and I are in the kitchen talking about our own experiences with hand-me-downs growing up. I didn’t have a lot of hand-me-downs. My dad gave us a clothing allowance each year to buy back-to-school clothes, and when I finally got to high school and that was insufficient, I supplemented with money I earned from working. Back in the day, those $75.00 Guess jeans were the shiz-nit, and I just had to have them. Nathan has told me about either wearing Walmart clothes (which he hated to go pick out, because the kids at school teased him about it) or wearing hand-me-downs from Uncle Ken.  Neither of us were clothes-horses like our school mates, because neither of us could afford it. I tended to wear the same clothes over and over again (okay, *sheepish grin*, I STILL do). That’s just being tight, I guess.

In our house, kids get new clothes for Christmas and/or birthdays. Occasionally the Easter Bunny will bring a new top with baby chicks or bunnies on it. We shop Goodwill. We shop consignment sales. We hit the Salvation Army when we’re near one that doesn’t smell all smoker-mc-smokey. Aunt Jill gives us clothes she finds in cars when they’re repossessed (from her work), if they would fit the girls. We are *blessed* with teen girl hand-me-downs from my plethora of nieces, and from my 40 year old neighbor who is a marathoner and hip (and fit) enough to still dress like a teen. When those bags of hand-me-downs arrive, I may grumble a bit that the girls will take forever clearing out the old, and sorting through what fits (not to mention the “battles” over who gets to pick from the bag first, and who really wanted THAT skirt or THIS top), but goodness, we’re grateful. When I have clothing to “redistribute” I try to give to people I know and care for, and feel could use it (rather than hauling the bag to Goodwill, although that still happens from time to time).

In short, all sanctimonious righteousness aside (and if you’re leaning towards thinking that’s my tone, disregard that thought), WE LOVE HAND-ME-DOWNS. I think it teaches kids a lot about practicality, taking care of what you have, valuing things that are “new”, and that the friends who would judge you on the basis of your clothing are not really friends at all. Feeling the love this morning! Thanks, brother of mine!


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