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.
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.