Monday, October 6, 2014

The Clothes

Of the many, many things (MANY) that have surprised me about parenting, one of the things that I simply never ever thought about as being emotional, and yet is something I cry about frequently is this:

The clothes.

It began the year before our adoption was complete.  My friend, Wendy, called one day and said she knew we were waiting for our baby boy's adoption to go through and she wondered if I needed any clothes or toys.  I am never one to miss out on getting used items (this is why my kids ask me every Saturday if the garage sales are calling my name- they've heard me say that a lot!), so I said "sure!" to Wendy. We set up a time and I went to her house.  In her garage were four large, carefully labeled Rubbermaid totes, full of boy clothes that her kids had outgrown.  I asked her how much she wanted for them.  She said, "If you'll take them out of here, they're free!"  I protested, but she insisted.  I was thrilled.

I took the totes home and spent hours carefully inspecting and sorting them by size, season, and type (The only thing I love more than getting things cheap or free is organizing things!). I put them back in totes to have them ready to go when it was time. So after we finally got our son, I happily pulled out my totes and he had an entire wardrobe!

I added items to the totes as people gave us gifts. After he outgrew things, I carefully saved the ones that weren't damaged or stained, in case we had another baby someday.

In between Son 1 and Mr. Boo, I had a friend who had a son.  We discussed swapping clothes, and so I got out my totes again.  I labelled each item with our last initial on the tag, and gave them to her.  She used them, put them back in totes, and gave them back.  Thus began a process of passing around clothes within our circle of friends.  "Who has the 6 month boy stuff?" we'd ask.  Or "I think he will need the 12 month stuff this fall- do you have that?"  Everyone had their own totes and labels on their clothes.  It was amazing. We would sigh with happy delight when we saw someone wearing "our kid's" clothes at church.  We took really good care of the clothes. We also all understood that kids' clothes get ruined easily, so we kept those few sentimental items out, and if something got ruined, so be it.

This has saved us all thousands of dollars, I am sure, which makes our husbands happy to go "pull out the totes" from storage when we need them.

For over 7 years now, I've had totes upon totes in my storage room.  "0-3 Month Boys: fall/winter" they would say.  Sometimes I'd work ahead and put "For Mr. Boo next fall" on a tote.

The first inkling that this process could be emotional came the very first time I "put away" clothes that Son 1 had outgrown in his totes.  What mother hasn't stood and cleaned out a closet in tears? My first baby was already growing so fast.  What a physical, tangible reminder of that.  There were outfits he never even got to wear before it was time to put them away.  How does this happen, this dressing a baby in a precious outfit, holding them close, and then blinking and they can no longer squeeze into that onesie? But in the beginning, there was a little respite in knowing that another one of my babies might wear the clothes.  There was only a temporary finality to putting them in the totes.

But now?  Yep, this is it.  The 0-3 month boy tote is no longer in existence.  After Sammy Brown wore that size, I donated some (some that I'd had for 7 years) and then stashed the best clothes away for my sister. I did make sure to save certain outfits that reminded me of each kid in their keepsake boxes.  But I am now down to one tub that says "0-9 month boy clothes to pass on." It's ready to leave this house and never come back. And my baby girl clothes had such a temporary stay here.

I can't believe it.  I can't believe there will be a day that there won't be tubs full of clothes in my basement.  All the time organizing, managing and sorting them.  All the "oh I remember that outfit!" when you pull out a new tub.  That will slowly be done as the years go on.  The tubs will leave and won't come back.

This has been such a sweet way for our community of friends to support each other and to delight in each other's kids.  It has been a visual reminder of our kids' temporary status as babies, toddlers, preschoolers and on.  I can look at a photo of someone and know how old they are based on what outfit they are wearing.

I never dreamed that something that had never even crossed my mind before would mean so much to me. I can't get used to this- this time marching forward and not waiting. Don't get me wrong- I am so happy to see my kids growing- they are becoming wonderful people who I genuinely love spending time with.  But I have this crazy hope that one thing I will get to do in eternity is sit and hold my babies again at that young age.  And maybe they will be dressed in whatever outfit I most remember at that stage.  A girl can dream, right?