Among many of the special humiliations reserved for the youngest member of a family is the hand-me-down. As the baby and also the runt of the family, I was the reluctant recipient of anything my older sister out-grew or cast off. The olive-green jacket with embroidery around the collar and a few mysterious stains, snags and tears that revealed glimpses of the interior white “stuffing”; the burgundy-colored corduroy pants faded to pink at points of wear; various pairs of tights all with knees stretched out and dotted with fabric “pills,” the Easter Sunday dress with the drooping hem. Sometimes I’d get my older cousins’ clothing – but that was a happily rare event. A more reliable source was my best friend. Her mother would gather up my friend’s out-grown, out-dated shirts, coats, pants, dresses – and hand them over to my mother when she would come to pick me up after a day spent playing at my friend's house. Sometimes the arms were too long or the knees were giving way. Admittedly there were times when I was pleased. There were those few items that I had been coveting, biding my time until they were mine.
Fast-forward 35 or so years. What used to be called hand-me-downs are now considered recycled. Part of the “green” movement; stretching the lifespan of good, if worn, clothing, sharing, re-purposing. Recently I received a package in the mail and as padding around a birthday gift were two pairs of used jeans and black yoga pants. Cast-offs from my friend in Colorado. I immediately tried everything on and the next day put one of the pairs of jeans to good employ – I’m always in need, it seems, of pants that don't mind getting dirty. I return the favor when I’ve lost interest in an item I think she might be able to use. I no longer consider receiving a friend’s used clothing as humiliating. I’m just patiently waiting to inherit those items of hers that I secretly covet.