I don’t remember many hand-me-downs as a kid. There were no close friends that were a size or two bigger than I was, so I never really got to experience what it was like to put on someone else’s shirt or dress. I suppose I didn’t mind much for a couple of reasons. For one, I was the kid who cared very little about what I was wearing beyond it’s range of motion for the keep-away game at recess. And secondly, hand-me-downs were always getting a bad rap.
The stories or tales that come to mind of hand-me-downs are ones of poverty, and embarrassment or teasing, or so I used to think. As if there were something really wrong with them. As if your family wasn’t good enough if you were forced to wear hand-me-downs.
And now, I think that’s the biggest bunch of hogwash I’ve ever heard in my life.
I can’t tell you how much we appreciate hand-me-downs in my house. We are fortunate enough to have people who love us enough to pass on their too-smalls, their well-worns but not that well-worns, and their favorites.
Because you don’t give people you love the ugly sweaters and the floral printed overalls. You give them the things you can barely stand to part with, and instead of tossing them in a donation bin, you hand them affectionately to someone you know and care about. I learned about this from a special friend.
My eldest daughter spent her youngest days with the body type of a beanpole. Every pair of pants was skinny, slim, and belted. And while I despised shopping for her, one day a clothes angel came to the rescue. “She looks just like my daughter did. Would you mind some hand-me-downs that will probably fit perfectly?”
Would I mind? Absolutely not! In fact, I jumped up and down at the idea. Soon enough, a number of garbage bags smelling sweetly of a special friend arrived at my house and Christmas morning paled in comparison. We sifted through the bags, had fashion shows, and knew that each item was chosen with care. She couldn’t wait to wear every single thing.
Many years have passed since those bags arrived, and because kids grow at phenomenal rates in every direction, we find ourselves once again cleaning out the dresser drawers. Some items go in a special keeper box, homemade things that would send the world spinning if we tossed. Others that have been worn beyond rescue go in another pile. But everything else, we decided, goes to friends. The tea party dresses, the broken-in jeans, the button down shirt only worn once before the growth spurt hit. Their memories are packed into the fibers, and the fibers are packed into bags, and the bags are delivered with the hopes that they spread happiness and well-covered kids to those we love.
Originally written 8.31.15