hand me downs

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Hand me downs haven't had much of a place in our house. Archer wore some of Hal's old sweaters as a baby but mainly only ever wore new clothes or those purchased at resale shops. I was the first of my friends and family to have a child so everything had to come new, unattached to siblings, friends, stories... Stain-free and tagged in paper bags with their receipts.

And though in my head I figured Fable would be able to wear plenty of Archer's old clothes, when it came time to go through some of them I realized that, no, I didn't want to dress my daughter like a boy. There were far too many beautiful dresses in the world to put her in grey drawstring shorts. And yet. A handful of Archer's old clothes made sense, a few tee shirts, a pair of jeans, some black boots.... If Fable so desired to wear them, they were hers. So I made them accessible, folded them next to the various floral thises and striped thats in her dresser, gave her the option to choose.

Fable turns two on Saturday. I've been preparing myself for this day since Fable turned one and now, this week, I finally feel ready. I'm ready to watch her blow her candles, ready to quit with the "twenty-something" months and call her "two!" Ready to start seriously looking into preschools for her to attend. Read to buy her her first tricycle.

Meanwhile, I clean out her drawers (as I do every few months when I notice things aren't fitting like they used to) gobbling up memories just in case her outgrown dresses don't make it back into our home again. Folding. Sniffing. Looking for missing buttons before finally tucking the little piles of clothes into the storage bins in the garage.

Last Sunday Fable found Archer's old racecar tank balled up in the back of her drawer. She handed it to me and starter tugging at her pajama top.

"Cah!" she said. "Cah! Cah!"

So I helped her out of her pajamas and into the tank top with the race cah and away she zoomed, out the bedroom door and into the afternoon to find her brother.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about the shirt and where it came from and those first few wears - three summers ago before Fable was born. Before me getting pregnant again was even mentioned. How this little shirt had traveled with Archer on many adventures and in and out of two plus years of preschool. How he wore it before he started talking up until the days his sister was born. There's a picture I have of Archer wearing the shirt in Florida where we spent Thanksgiving three years ago, pictures of him at the beach, the playground, our old house, conked out in his car seat, eating birthday cake at the dinner table...

...Meanwhile, there she was, filling her backpack with tiny animals in the living room, wearing it too. Little tank top, nothing special. Faded and stained and nondescript. And then I started to think about whether or not three years from now, there would be another body to inherit the tee, dancing around the living room, differently accessorized, spirited.

I have friends with two boys. Friends with two girls. Friends who watch one child outgrow a dress, only to see it dance another day on their second child, third child, fourth... Sunday was the first time I have had this experience so for me, it caught me by surprise.

"It's just a shirt."

Nah. It's not though. Because time isn't measured by time. It's measured by things that change and memories and stains on faded tee-shirts. It's measured by waistbands that no longer latch and busted buttons and scars that fade or don't. And when they're little? When their years are measured in months after being measured in weeks after being measured in days, hours, minutes.... these are the things we have to cling to- tangible things that have adventured before and will, as they say, ride again.
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Later that night, I pointed out the "1" on the little race car on Fable's chest before pulling her shirt over her head.

"One, doo!" She said back as I flung the dirty tee into the hamper.

"Six days, sister. You still have six whole days before you're doo."

And then she smiled and stepped one leg at a time into her pajama bottoms.



Melissa | 10:25 AM

I love how parallel your stories run to my own life. There is something so comforting not only in your words but just knowing someone else "gets' it.

My 20 month old daughter just began the process of selecting clothes from her big brothers hand me downs. Last night she chose his old navy flag shirt circa 2007 and a pair of his faded sleep shorts for her own jammies, the entire time saying "bubba's durt" (bubbas shirt). And the first thing I did this morning was find the picture of bubba wearing the same outfit 3 years ago.

Jason Hudson Dot Com | 10:25 AM

You got me but good with this. So, so nice.

whitney | 10:27 AM

I love this. Thanks for sharing. :)

Dana | 10:40 AM

I give my girls' clothes to the neighbor across the street who also has two girls. A few weeks ago, her youngest ran down the sidewalk in a purple pair of pants that stopped my heart instantly. The memories of my oldest, now 6, wearing them when she was 18 months old were so immediate, so overpowering it really took a few minutes to get my head straight. Little Catalina is the fourth girl to wear the pants and they're still holding strong, still creating precious memories.

Unknown | 10:53 AM

I love how excited Fable was to wear her big brother's shirt. I'm dreaming I will have a similar experience one day. My son is just a few months younger than Fable, and I hope he gets to have a sister as sweet as her.

There are so many memories attached to clothing for me. Definitely more than just a shirt. Thank you for sharing another beautifully written post.

Lisa | 10:56 AM

One of these days... you are going to end one of these posts with a surprise! Baby #3!! I'm sure when we (all) least expect it! :)

Flucky Mom | 11:28 AM

Beautiful! Honestly, you've said it all so perfectly. I only have one child, but I feel the same melancholy when folding the clothes and toys he's outgrown. Wondering when I'll see them again. To me they are not just things,but part of the memories I'll have of watching him grow up.

Sarah | 12:07 PM

This was beautiful, but I have to admit, I was most excited about that kick-ass carpet. Love the colors and the design, I am betting it is those square pieces you put down to make your own design, love love love it.

I think there are some outfits you just have to keep because the memory of that day is so good, you can sniff the clothes and be right back there again with that little one snuggled on your lap.

Amy | 12:28 PM

I, on the other hand, had my girl after all my friends had kids and Nola has been so lucky to have the best hand-me-downs. I love them so much because they are often things I would never have picked out and she has this crazy eclectic warbrobe that has been passed to her with love. I love knowing that my she is wearing the clothes that my best friend's daughter wore. I love knowing that her daughter played and danced and had joy in those clothes and now so does Nola. It's so much about what you wrote. It is the material witness to the continuity of life.

Nola turned two this month and I went through all her one year clothes and boxed them up to give to friends for their children. I love knowing that these clothes will twirl and get messy on another little girl.


Carpet isn't mine! That first shot was taken at a friend's house. But you're right - it's totally awesome!

Thanks, all.

Angela | 12:32 PM

My girl's are 7, 4, & 23 months. Opening those boxes (and boxes and boxes) of beautiful little things brings so many memories rushing back. If we don't have another then there will be three little quilts for my girls made of their clothes. At this point many of them are only salvageable as scraps...three kiddos pretty much destroy an article of clothing!

Melissa | 12:36 PM

I LOVE this post, especially since I just cleared my daughter's drawers/closet of outgrown clothing. I only have one child, and if we do have more, it won't be soon - so sometimes a favorite outfit - while "just clothing" is so much more.

Tammy | 12:51 PM

My girl wears some of her brother's hand-me-downs. He's not quite 19 months older than her, so lots of it made sense. She had plenty of her own clothes, of course... and as I packed things up to pass to friends or send to Good Will when she was finally done with them, the things that gave me pause to let go, that caused me to linger and hold them against my cheek for a minute, were not the "boy" things with trucks and sports motifs, or the "girl" pink and flowered things, the first birthday outfits or even the ones they came home from the hospital in... but the ones they both wore. The plain white onesies they both spent their first few months in, the little footie PJs I rocked them both to sleep in... the plain, stretchy pants and t-shirts...

Sarai | 1:40 PM

I see the girl has her mama's sense of fashion, pairing that cool racecar tee with a rockin' skirt and cute shoes :) Girl's Gone Child's Child's Got Style!

Anonymous | 2:19 PM

I have been following your blog for about 3 years and am always amazed by your writing. You have a fantastic way of pulling at one's heartstrings. Thank you.

Tatiana | 2:56 PM

I love hand-me downs. My girl loves her brothers clothes. And although she sometimes gets called a boy, it doesn't phase her. And it makes my heart happy to see any of our friends kids in my kids old clothes. I think my babes are tired of hearing where things come from but I love it. And it's all about keeping mama happy, right?

Anonymous | 5:00 PM

My God I love you.


Anna | 6:15 PM

Love your words.

nicolette {momnivores dilemma} | 6:49 PM


Your post is precisely why I can't yet part with the clothes I've seen my two boys stain and destroy over the past three years.

In hopes, of a third.

Not to be all sentimental, but I plan on taking those "favorite tees" and turning them into quilts. Good thing most of the tees are eighties bands and guitars...things that bode well with my taste...

Amanda | 9:00 PM

So sweet. Gave me chills. Thank you for sharing with us.

emily bilbrey | 9:01 PM


i just adore your words.

and your kids.


(happy almost-birthday, beautiful fable!)


Polly | 9:06 PM

Gorgeous. Completely gorgeous.

I took the Joey out to the laundromat Sunday in a pair of gray drawstring shorts (the only thing not in the hamper). Everyone there thought she was a boy. I kept my secret to myself, let her Yentil shine through for a few hours.

Tracey | 3:06 AM

Pulled a chord sister. Seb wears some of Kit's stuff but... Thinking about 3 now! I have one of each and would love just to experience it one more time. Not even the baby bit or the this bit or that bit , but like you said for the memories and the love and enjoy the time before in a whizz before they are all grown up and gone. A year goes by in a sec. 18 years could seem like only a year ago very soon.

Tracey | 3:07 AM

Oh you know i am keeping my favourite clothing memories and one day i will make a quilt (or get someone else too!) out of them to keep. Maybe one for each of them.Any ideas for yours?

Jennifer | 5:40 AM

I am currently going through boxes of my boys' old clothing--ahhh, the memories it is bringing to mind. I'm finding it hard to part with anything. I have decided to keep most of it in hopes this next baby (a girl) will get some use out of them.

I'm sure the urge for dresses and all things girly will hit as soon as she is born, but how can I part with miniature checkered vans.

Oh how I miss those tiny feet and the wonderful adventures they have long since traveled...

Lori | 7:18 AM

My favorite clothes as a child were first my older sisters. I love seeing photos of us in same shirts\dresses\etc knowing the pictures were taken years apart.

renee | 8:32 AM

My two girls are 2.5 years apart, and are rather differently proportioned, so the younger one generally wears her sister's pants from 2 years ago and shirts from 3 years ago. This has been the case for 5 years now, but since time accelerates as your kids grow up, the fact that I was pulling out C's clothes from KINDERGARTEN for L completely brought me up short--wasn't kindergarten just a minute ago? And now C actually remembers wearing the clothes L has on, which can be a little traumatic for her. But hand-me-downs are great--they keep your kids young.

jessica | 3:54 PM

she IS archer in that shirt!! man they look alike!

Sarah Buttenwieser | 9:13 AM

I totally love handing clothing down & getting hand me downs: I even wrote about it!


jessica | 6:07 PM

re:carpet- i have a boxer and the first thing i thought when i saw that carpet was how hard it must be to keep it looking clean with all the dog hair!!! we used to have a black rug and it was a nightmare. now we have a neutral so i can ignore the hair longer- ha! thank god it's not yours!!