Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Each blouse, dress, skirt or pair of pants had belonged at one time to my sister and brother who were, respectively, 12 and 10 when I was born.
My mother had saved these articles of clothing for many reasons:
- They were beautiful
- They had no stains
- They brought back important memories
- She had sewn many of them by hand
- Someday, there might be another baby who would wear them (me!)
A talented seamstress, my mother took great pride throughout my childhood in crafting much of our clothing from fabric she'd selected herself, made according to patterns that she'd picked. Mom's love of what she did elevated sewing into an art form. She envisioned beautiful things and then brought them to life.
It was exciting to watch.
As a little girl then, I loved to see her take down each wicker suitcase and unlock them - sorting through the piles of carefully preserved garments to see what might look good on me or fit me soon.
It became a sort of ritual for us, my rite of passage.
"I think you're finally ready to wear that blue skirt," she might say - and I would twirl around holding it in front of the mirror in her dressing room, thrilled that at last I had grown big enough.
Wearing clothes from my sister and brother didn't make me feel dowdy or sad... I honestly never knew any differently, so it didn't bother me. Instead, I remember sometimes feeling that if I wore the clothes of my cool older brother and beautiful big sister, it might make me look cooler and more beautiful.
I also felt very connected to my family while wearing their old clothes.
I guess that sounds funny, but it's true.
Even now, thirty years later, I still wear clothes given to me by my mother that once belonged to my father and though I know I probably look pretty frumpy in his old flannel shirts or jackets - I don't care.
Wearing my dad's clothes makes me feel closer to him... especially in light of his death two years ago. I can remember Dad wearing these shirts and sweaters, and it makes me feel like he's still with me when I throw on one of his cardigans on a chilly morning.
* * *
Possibly due to my genuine comfort with hand-me-downs, I began thrift shopping a few years ago for myself and our kids. I was turned on to thrift store shopping by my mother-in-law who is gorgeous and frugal. She always looks amazing with the most beautiful clothing, and a great deal of what she wears was found second-hand.
My mother-in-law views thrift store shopping as a treasure hunt and doesn't see why she should pay a gazillion dollars on a blouse or skirt when she could find a perfectly lovely outfit for around $5.
She's also blessed by that invaluable gift: aesthetic good taste. She knows what would look good on her, and what would look good in her wardrobe. She always manages to look stylish and pretty and has her own unique style.
Inspired by her success with thrift stores, I "got over" my squeamishness about heading downtown to shop next to bums and (dare I say what I often suspect?) prostitutes. Of course, over time I've discovered that lots of other interesting folks are thrift shopping too! Soccer moms, grandmothers, career women, mothers with huge broods of children underfoot... and yes, they're mostly women.
I don't have the same aesthetic sense as my mother-in-law but my kids usually manage to look clean, neatly matched and (I'm biased) pretty darling. Almost every time my mother says, "Wow, I really love that dress my granddaughter is wearing today!" I grin widely.
"Thanks! Isn't it cute? $2.00... I got it at the thrift store! It hadn't even been worn before, the tags were still on!"
She never fails to be surprised.
* * *
All this to say that historically I have always loved hand-me-downs. They rock!
Recently, a phenomenon has occurred that I honestly never expected though... I've begun to be given hand-me-downs by my beautiful nieces.
These girls could not be more talented, intelligent, sweet, athletic or awesome.
I am uber-proud of both of them!
They've both become gorgeous and at the ages of 19 and 16, it's fair to say that they're very nearly grown up. Technically I suppose that one of them really is an adult.
And quite honestly, they both have great style! They dress in their own individual ways.
So it certainly isn't a bad thing that my cherished nieces are giving me hand-me-downs. Frankly, I look a lot better thanks to their generosity. Between the two of them and my (still-beautiful) big sister, my wardrobe is becoming nicer all the time.
It's just... well, a little different.
I guess I never imagined that someday I might grow up to wear clothes given to me by children fifteen to twenty years my junior!
I think this may mean two things:
(1) It's probably time for me to get more of a job so I can afford to buy my own clothes and develop my own style again...
(2) I'm getting old.
If the darling baby girl I fed mashed squash in a high chair when I was already sixteen years old is now a college student handing me down her super-cute clothes, I can't avoid the surprising truth:
I'm middle aged!
36... hard to be anyone's baby. Even though I've *always* been the baby of my family.
I'm not even just a full-blown woman. I'm a woman with wrinkles and white hairs sprouting up, closer to fifty than I am to twenty. Wow.
How did this happen? (Smiling as I type, but still wondering...)
Yesterday I was a little girl looking forward to growing big enough to finally fit into my big sister's high school homecoming dress.
Today I am a mother with three children, still wearing hand-me-downs. It isn't exactly what I thought I'd be doing at 36. Thirty years ago I thought when I grew up I'd be an attorney wearing expensive black suits and high heels.
I was going to be Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and The City" (before I knew who that was)... a woman with impeccable taste and unmistakable style.
Clearly, my life veered in a different direction than I'd anticipated... I ended up in stay-at-home mom town.
With genuine contentment and humility, I'll now reveal that today I'm wearing a pair of khaki pants leftover from my first pregnancy with a fabulous stretchy waist ~ SO comfortable! I'm also sporting a thrift store sweater (azure blue) and a matching hand-me-down azure blue t-shirt.
* * *
As the years pass I am beginning to realize that part of adulthood is accepting yourself and your life as it is, and looking for all the things to love about WHERE you are and WHO you are.
So here is what I love, as I fold and put away a stack of lovely new shirts and blouses from my sweet nieces - which I did accept with gratitude.
I love my family... incredible people who are generous to a fault. If they had only one pair of shoes they would still give it to you and walk barefooted.
I love my nieces and am so proud of the thoughtful and insightful young women they have become. They are really fun to be around and I'm so proud of them both! My sister has done a phenomenal job as their mom.
I love beautiful clothes, first or second-hand. A lovely blue dress that hangs just right is a true gift and I'm lucky to have clean, pretty clothes! Lots of women around the world have one outfit or two... I must have a hundred.
I love that I can FIT into my high school and college-age nieces' clothing. Wow! Considering that I have been alternately too plump and too thin over the past five years, it's really a joy to have reached a normal size and weight at last.
I love hand-me-downs - especially when they come from people that are close to me with good true hearts. Just one more way that I can stay connected to my family and friends, blessed by their kindness.
* * *
This post stands in lieu of
March 31, 2011 ~ Day 112
A Lost Day
Monday, January 9, 2012
Surprisingly, this worked out in my favor.
Thanks to the chaos of our Monday morning "get the kids back to school" routine after a fun weekend out of town, we were all running late.
I felt certain that there would be no possible way that I would actually have time to walk our son to his school 8 blocks away... thanks to a variety of four year old tantrums and one naked six year old running around the house whooping and hollering with joy. He gleefully refused to put on his clothes ~ until I explained that I would be taking him to school even if he wasn't dressed.
(Amazing how fast he was able to put on his clothes after that suggestion!)
In any event, I was positive that ~ after packing two school lunches and making three breakfasts, plus supervising the dressing of two very fidgety little guys ~ I would end up missing out on my morning walk and have to drive my elder son to school. Then, I realized that despite my own lack of showering or breakfast, I was actually already dressed quite appropriately for a walk!
"The neighbors will never know that this is what I wore yesterday!" I laughed, and went to throw on shoes to match the shirt, sweater and corduroy pants I'd fallen asleep in.
So there you have it - true confessions of a stay-at-home mother with three small children. Sometimes I find myself walking my kid to school wearing yesterday's clothes... and you know what? It still feels great to get the exercise. Showering after a walk and breakfast is not all that bad.
As I pushed my daughter in her stroller and enjoyed the beautiful January weather I began to think about the year we've just entered: 2012. A lot of things have been said about this year, many of which foretell some kind of gloom and doom.
I feel exactly the opposite though! Whenever I think about this new year, I feel a potent surge of energy and happiness. I really believe that 2012 is going to bring many great things and that we have much to be grateful for and excited about. It feels like a special year already.
Many fantastic things have already happened, or are about to happen!
For example, we're looking forward to an upcoming trip to Arizona to celebrate the baby shower for my childhood best friend who is expecting a little boy soon. I'm so excited!
Back in our high school days this same friend predicted that she would be the last out of four of us who were very close friends to have a baby, and I countered her by betting that she would be the first of us to have kids. I'd better bring $5 along with my shower gift, because she won the bet!
I've been waiting a long time then, to celebrate the birth of her darling child. The first time I saw her pregnant, I had a really strong instinct that her baby would be a little boy. It's rare that I get that kind of intuition, but in her case, I felt it 100%.
Sure enough, months later the ultrasound showed that the baby was indeed a boy. I feel like I know this little guy already and I just adore him. I can't wait to lavish him with auntie love. He's going to be one adorable kiddo.
As it turns out, a handful of our dearest friends are expecting new babies in the next month or two. This is just a wonderful thing, such a blessing. How could 2012 be anything but beautiful when it heralds the arrival of such treasured and highly anticipated little souls?
* * *
My husband believes that this will be the year when we at last purchase our 30 year home. The one we retire in... the one we stick to and build our lives and family around. I'm so thrilled about that too!
Also, there is just a huge light beaming at the end of the tunnel right now as my daughter - our youngest - will turn 3 this summer and begin to attend preschool in September. Wow! All three kids in school!!!
As a stay-at-home mother this opens up my future! I could potentially go back to work this year! Or work part-time! I've been thinking about substitute teaching (flexible, fun) at local schools along with my private tutoring. I'm so excited to have many options on the horizon, many possibilities. This will be my first time in seven years without being either pregnant or having a young child to care for in the house.
Lately the kids have gotten to be more and more fun to be around. They've become so interested in the world outside of our home... up for biking, hiking, sports, playdates, games. They raise interesting questions and really think subjects through ~ starting to draw their own conclusions. Even the two year old is dazzling us with the rapid expansion of her vocabulary.
"Mama! Look! I see a bird! He is a black bird! My bird is hungry! I cook for the bird in my pink kitchen! I make him some lettuce!"
She is growing like a weed, tall and sturdy. Capable of knocking both of her brothers down if they try to harass or tease her. I love her sass and her humor! She's quite a girl.
* * *
Lastly, I'm just so darn happy and grateful to be here in 2012. Pretty healthy, too!
About 18 months ago in 2010, I was told by a doctor that I might have a pretty awful autoimmune disease called scleroderma. I had a positive ANA test and my esophagus had stopped working correctly. They referred me to a rheumatologist for further testing.
As I waited for my appointment I read up on scleroderma. The first thing I learned about the illness was that if you get the "worse" diffuse variety, your projected lifespan will range from about 2 to 5 years. Understandably, I was devastated. I tried to imagine what I would be able to accomplish in just two years that would leave an indelible mark upon my children and the world. I dug in my heels and set about looking for answers.
Along the way I learned about the relationship between infection and autoimmunity (e.g. - Lyme disease and scleroderma). I was shocked to come up positive through lab tests for high antibodies to many different kind of bacteria, and three different viruses linked to chronic disease. I read voraciously (still do) and began to learn how to take better care of my body through diet, exercise and supplements ~ including the antibiotic doxycycline.
Nearly two years later, it's remarkable how much better I am feeling! Happily, all bloodwork for scleroderma remains negative (nor have I developed symptoms of that disease). I still have a lot to work on in terms of inflammation and my thyroid but overall I'm doing great! I feel better than I have in years and I'm starting to look like my old self again. I gained a full five pounds in five weeks and no longer look like a skeleton! Yay!!! Back to the old college weight of 119 lbs. Hurray!
* * *
When I read sensationalized headlines on newspapers and magazines about the end of the world in 2012, I have to laugh.
For me, 2012 feels like the BEGINNING of the world. A whole new, clean, beautiful year in which to thrive and succeed. (Even if I end up celebrating the bright days by walking my boy to school in yesterday's clothes...)
I'm thrilled about 2012!
Can't wait to spend it with our family and friends.
If you're reading this (wherever you are and whenever you do) I hope that this beautiful new year brings you health, productivity, happiness and LOVE!
This post stands in lieu of
March 30, 2011 ~ Day 111
A Lost Day