Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hand-me-downs

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.

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