Every year, as the leaves begin to turn color and the sound of school busses fill the air again, I force myself to face the daunting task of cleaning out my kids’ closets. It has become sort of a back-to-school tradition. Actually, tradition might not be the right word, maybe more of a seasonal ritual, or perhaps even a sacrificial offering of my peace and energy to the angry closet gods.
My older two daughters do a decent job on their own. They usually work together to determine a hand-me-down system where clothes seamlessly transfer from Mikayla’s wardrobe into Macie’s. But from Macie to Mylee there is a sizing gap. Therefore we send clothes to a cousin who is sized perfectly between them. As she outgrows the clothes, she returns them for Mylee, along with her own outgrown clothes. Great system, right?
It is a great system –until we try to cram everything into Mylee’s closet. As the youngest child, Mylee got the smallest bedroom (the “guest room”, until we learned we were getting a long-term, little sister type, 18-year-plus kind of “guest”) so her closet is small, especially small for a hand-me-down princess.
In addition to two older sisters and a cousin, we get clothes handed down from a friend with three daughters, so maybe Mylee is more of a hand-me-down queen than a princess. It is quite the endeavor to sort through all the clothes and decide what to keep and what to donate. The boxes of potential Mylee clothes accumulate until I set aside a day to go through everything. Sounds easy enough, just another mom task, but this particular task involves a stubborn queen who has a sincere disdain for trying on clothes.
I tried to make it fun this year by turning my living room into a store. She pushed her plastic shopping cart through the piles of shirts, pants, pajamas and shoes. As she selected clothes to try on, I pretended to be the ever-helpful sales associate telling her how cute it looked or pointing out a stain or missing button suggesting she pass on the item. We did this happily for about an hour, forcefully for another half-an-hour, and then the whining began.
“I don’t want to do this anymore mom.”
“I know Mylee, but we have to figure out what to keep.
“Moooooooom just keep it all!”
“There isn’t enough room in your closet Mylee.”
“Then, I don’t care, get rid of it all!”
I put my foot down with, “Mylee some of this stuff is from Justice!” Of course she couldn’t argue with that reasoning and reluctantly returned for another round, but we abandoned playing store as the battle of “are we done yets?” and “come on, just a little bit longers” ensued.
I fought a good fight, but in the end she ran off to play and I was left to take inventory of the store by myself. But as I sorted through the piles, I picked up items that triggered fond memories. I remembered a seven-year-old version of my 12-year-old Macie promising to clean her room if I bought this Jonas Brothers shirt. I sniffed a cute plaid button down shirt that my sophomore, Mikayla, wore for her second grade school picture, for the slightest scent of her childhood. I held up Macie’s favorite jean skirt and remembered her trying to convince me it fit. I hugged the shirt Mikayla had on when she came to the hospital to meet her baby sister, Mylee.
As I sat alone among the piles of clothes my leftover frustration of dealing with the hand-me-down queen’s attitude turned to nostalgia and gratitude for these piles of clothes that traveled through my little trio of girls. While I can’t fit every article of clothing in the closet, I can, fortunately, fit every memory made in those clothes in my heart.