Kim Bongiorno essays

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I’ve always seen hand-me-downs as a practical solution. Older kids are done with clothes. Younger kids are about to get bigger and will need new clothes.

When my son is ready for the next size up, I pack everything that he has outgrown and bring it to his twin cousins the next time I visit. It’s fun seeing them in his old favorites, like a beloved Spiderman t-shirt, and cozy footsie pajamas.

Over the years, we have received pieces here and there for him, which has helped a lot, because I wasn’t on anyone’s hand-me-down list for my daughter until she was five years old.

Everything she wore was new, bought by me, or a gift from the Grandmas. Sure, it’s nice to crack open a box with shiny new outfits in them. But it’s also expensive. I happily passed them on to others when she was done with them, but never got anything in return, until recently.

One of her friends in her class is a boy with a baby brother and two older sisters. As her friend’s mom and I got closer, through school functions, on the playground, and eventually a book club and more, she saw that I was someone who would happily take her daughters’ old clothes off her hands. It was helpful to her, and to me.

I looked forward to discovering bags she’d drop on my doorstep. It was a treasure hunt inside! We never knew whether we’d get a bag of t-shirts, soccer cleats, or some jeans and one white dress shoe.

Usually, I’d go through the bags, myself. Then my daughter began insisting on trying every piece on upon arrival, even if it was obviously too big for her.

I humored her, and it quickly became Our Thing. When a bag shows up, I hide it away until I know we have the time to pour through it together. Once she sees it, she squeals with delight, clapping and hopping with impatience for me to get started. I’d talk about the things we’d find in the bags, remark on how cute this is, how that’ll be perfect for the Fall, how those shoes can be polished up and worn at
Thanksgiving dinner.

Then, one time, I pulled a dress over her head, and smoothed it out. She looked down at herself, twirled and said, “Mama, you know what I like best about getting the clothes?”

“No, baby, what?”

She pulled two fistfuls of the dress up to her nose, inhaled, and said, “They smell just like Louis’ big sisters. THAT’S my favorite thing.”

I sat there on her bedroom floor, breathing in a wafting of my friend’s detergent, realizing that my daughter sees these bags of clothes as more than just a function.

She’s not being a fashionista-in-training. She’s not greedy for free stuff.

She sees herself as closer to her friend’s big sisters each time she puts their old clothes on. She feels a comfort in the familiar scent of that whole, loving family, and loves wrapping herself up in it in any way possible.

I know that soon enough she’ll be older and wanting to envelop herself in other people, in other houses. It made my heart swell to know that she’s already choosing wisely which friends and families to surround herself with.

I looked at her, still twirling before me, and replied, “Yeah. That’s MY favorite part, too.”

About the Author

Kim Bongiorno

Kim Bongiorno is a writer of humor, fiction and memoir. Her blog is , her books are listed on , and she is always available on .

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