Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Year Two ~ January 11, 2012

When I was a little girl my mother kept two wicker suitcases on the top shelf of her closet that were filled with beautiful children's clothing.

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.

Fancy, fancy.

* * *

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

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