I grew up in a working-class family. My dad worked as a steel salesman and my mom stayed at home. I don’t mean to imply we were ever wanting for anything, but believe me, when the local orthodontist’s family sent over a garbage bag of hand-me-down clothing, chock-full of ivory corduroy, preppy plaid and brand names, it was a glorious occasion.
I also wore my older sister’s hand-me-downs. This was usually fine, but there were some items that our grandmother would purchase for us in matching sets. Footed pajamas, Christmas sweaters, itchy dresses. These items I wore for the duration that they fit me, but there were the second series of occasions. These hand-me-downs were not so glorious.
All of this to say, I’m no stranger to gently-used goods, and I revel in digging into the boxes or bags of passed-along items, no matter if they’re of the glorious variety or not. To my delight, I have found that people are very generous with their old stuff when you’re pregnant. I’ve received passed-along maternity clothing, as well as toys, bottles, and books for the kids.
Most notably, I’ve received an absolute plethora of hand-me-down clothing for the babies. Some from my sister, which included a neat mix of boy’s and girl’s things, some from a dear friend who had her own little girl last year, and most remarkably, some from a woman that I don’t even know.
A friend from work mentioned that her friend, who lives a town or two away, had heard I was having twin girls just as she had done a year previously. This lovely mystery woman sent me two absolutely massive boxes of baby clothing neatly folded and organized into sets of two. I can see a year-in-the-life in these clothes, from plaid Easter dresses to Halloween pumpkin onesies. Even after being given so many lovely things over the past few months, the generosity of this truly astounded me.
Among the many things I’ve received second-hand are dozens of pairs of newborn-sized socks. I wondered if babies even wear socks, and when I asked about this, more knowledgeable moms than I assured me that they are not particularly useful and that they fall off immediately. Luckily I’ve also received some tiny pants with feet attached.
Though I’m told it’s a desire to rid yourself of ‘stuff’ that leads to these things being passed along, I think it must go a bit beyond the urge to purge. I believe women, in general, are generous, but mothers are generous in high gear. They’ve given up control over their bodies for months, are then tethered by breastfeeding, all the while coming to terms with prioritizing another human life, entirely, for the foreseeable future. This shift in perspective must mean dramatic changes come about. You transition from being someone who gives when it suits you, to someone who gives all the time, no matter what. Day or night. Usually at night, so I’m told.
This transition is around the corner for me, no doubt. I’ll wash and neatly fold tiny clothes, pack up gently used toys, and I’ll find another expectant mom that I can help out. I’ll look for ways to pass along those smartly-designed maternity jeans, the extra-ample blouses, and about 37 pairs of unworn newborn socks. After all, I bet there’s a mother out there somewhere who will get good use out of them, eventually.