I never planned on hand me downs. I felt certain, in that over confident new parent kind of way, that I wanted my children to have things chosen just for them. Things that would express the individuality of who they were, rather than fitting into someone else’s. We would be rich enough, I reasoned.
I can’t quite recall how long that idea lasted, but it did involve passing on piles of toys and clothes. Somewhere along the way I began keeping things, and packed them away, unsure of their value. Still certain that my next little person would be so very much themselves that they would need clothes and toys to match.
How I ever thought my little ones individuality could be lessened by anything is beyond me.
Sebastian is almost two now. He has new clothes, bought fresh and just for him – he also has hand me downs.
Not just drawers of clothes but drawers of stories. They’re not just the shorts he’s wearing to the beach this morning, they’re the shorts we picked out in Zurich on a hot summers day, that his brother wore when his hair was still blond and his voice still small. The Viking t-shirt isn’t just cute, it’s days at the park filled with giggles before he was born, and hide and seek when his brother always used to hide in the same place. The red pajamas are him, but they’re also his brother making cubby houses under the sheets, they’re nursery rhymes sung back the front by a little boy who came before him who fiercely wished for a brother of his own (and had christened him “Mashtoe”). Sebastian isn’t any less himself when he wears his hand me downs, but he is a little more “them”. And in my naivety I couldn’t have comprehended the beauty of that.
Bodhi loved diggers when he was two. Unlike cars, which were a momentary curiosity, diggers enthralled him. Every day for almost a year he made us read his favourite book that talked about all kinds of heavy machinery in great detail. He would sit, fascinated, listening to the same facts and figures as he cradled his toys. He loved his digger toys. Some came from Switzerland, some Italy, some the shop down the road; little model diggers and graders, loaders and forklifts. He would carry them everywhere, even fall asleep with them clutched tightly in his hand.
He didn’t dug with them once.
They were held, admired, sometimes tentatively moved back and forth but never ever really played with. That was him. The idea of dirtying toys meant for dirt appalled him, so they sat in a box, paint only faded from endless caresses by sweaty toddler hands. Along with the cars he had barely registered he owned.
Sebastian ran around the house today, as he so often does, driving Bodhi’s old cars and trucks and diggers along tables, floors and shelves. He humms like an engine, crashes them, races them and makes tunnels from books. The diggers dig, the graders grade. The cars are parked in their freshly made garages. Those toys, the dusty forgotten vehicles are alive again. Alive for the first time really, because this is different in a way I was a fool to think it wouldn’t be. “Mine.” Sebastian says, hugging them, and they are. They are his, just as they were his brothers.
Those toys, those clothes, those things that make memories are both of them. They are their stories, waiting to be remembered.
Years ago I figured we would be rich enough not to use hand me downs. How wrong I was. The richness in this has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with memories best worn and played with. It has to do with sharing; laughs, cuddles and moments made together, played out years apart.
Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013