Warmer weather finally convinced me that it was time to put up the winter sweaters and get out my summer clothes. Working in my closet is not a job I enjoy, most likely because I am a sentimental fool. Every season I go through each piece of clothing and ask myself if it's a keeper or if I should give it away. After all, if you haven't worn something for a year or two it's time to get it out of your closet. Over the years I have gotten better about giving things away, but I still struggle. Our children were in high school before I was able to get rid of their baby clothes.
High Class Hoarder
I heard my teenage nephew call my sister-in-law a "high class hoarder." I asked him what he meant and he said every Saturday his mother goes to yard sales in nice neighborhoods and brings home "bargains" that she just can't live without. I got a chuckle out of that and the word "hoarder" made me think of my grandmother. If you have ever known anyone who lived through the Great Depression you will understand why my grandmother kept the wrapping off of Christmas presents, folded it neatly and stuck it in a drawer to use the next year. She also kept every scrap of food that wasn't eaten at each meal. It didn't matter if it was two bites of beans, it went in an empty margarine tub and into the refrigerator. Maybe not being able to get rid of things is just a genetic trait I inherited, I don't know. What I do know for sure is that there are four things in my closet that I will never give away.
Grandma's Blue Flannel Bath Robe
My grandmother was an amazing woman. When she married my grandfather they moved into a little white farm house with his mother, who I called Ma. Ma was wheelchair bound and my grandparents had to lift her from the bed to her chair, to the toilet and then back. It had to be hard to be a full-time caregiver and a new bride. Grandma took care of Ma until Ma's death at the age of 96. By the time Ma died Grandma had bore three babies in the little white house and raised them to adulthood in addition to everything else she did.
Farm life back then was much harder than it is now. My grandparent had a few milk cows and lots of chickens. They grew a huge garden that hoed and kept weeded. After harvest time Grandma canned vegetables and kept them in the cellar where it was cool. There was no air conditioning in the house and the only source of heat in the winter came from two wood stoves.
Grandma lived to be 89 and up until she was 85 she could work circles around me. She looked like a soft, fluffy marshmallow on the outside, but inside she was made of steel. Grandma's mother died when she was only three years old, so she had no memories of her mother. Her husband, my grandfather, died in 1976. Grandma's only daughter (my mother) died in 1990 of colon cancer and a year later my mother's older brother died. Grandma's heart was broken with each passing but she found strength from within and from her faith and she continued on.
She lived with us the last several years of her life and helped me raise my children. One of my most vivid memories of her is when our twins were about two years old. They slept upstairs and Grandma knew that carrying them down the stairs would be too dangerous so the three of them would sit on the stairs and scoot all the way down. Grandma would be in the middle with the twins on either side of her.
A few years before Grandma died I took her picture sitting on her porch reading her Bible. She wasn't too happy about it because she was wearing her blue bathrobe. It was early morning and she hadn't gotten dressed yet. I loved the picture and took it to a lady I knew whose hobby was painting. She painted a watercolor from the snapshot I made and today it hangs in my house and Grandma's blue bathrobe has a permanent place in my closet.
The Silver Disco Dress
I graduated from high school in 1974 and my college years were filled with disco parties. I wasn't the best dancer, but I wasn't the worst either. I had enough rhythm to do the Bump and the Electric Slide but that was about it. My friends and I went to the movies and fell in love with John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. We listened (and danced) to the Bee Gees hits, Stayin Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, and Night Fever over and over again.
I'm not sure when I bought the silver disco dress with the slits up the sides but I know I wore it to lots of dances. I took it with me on a trip to New York when I tagged along with my mother and her friends. And when my dad won a trip to Hawaii (he was a Ford tractor salesman) my brother and I went too, and so did the dress. I wore it to a night club in Honolulu that our parents took us to because my mother was a Don Ho fan. The only song I remember him singing was Tiny Bubbles. Don Ho sang like I danced; without much talent but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
My mother spoiled me while I was in college and I always had nice clothes. My girlfriends loved to borrow my things and I was more than willing to share. One of the most popular items in my closet was my silver disco dress. That dress went to more parties than any other piece of clothing I ever owned. Just for old times sake I took it off the hanger and tried it on today. No one but the dog saw me and he wasn't impressed.
"I sure had a lot of fun in this dress," I said to the dog. He yawned, closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
The Mom Shirt
One year for Mother's Day my husband surprised me with a tee-shirt. What made this shirt so special was that a lady had embroidered our children's faces and names on it. Even their eyes were the right color! I wore the shirt proudly and would probably still be wearing it had a drop of bleach not been spilled on it and eaten through the material. The faces on the shirt were little, just like our children were at the time. To me, that shirt symbolizes their childhood and how proud I was (and still am) to be their mom.
There's no way in the world I'm ever getting rid of it.
The Basketball Shirt
Our twin boys are our babies because they were born last but they grew to be 6 ft. 8 inches tall. From the time they were old enough to play sports basketball was a part of their life and ours. My husband and I spent countless hours taking them to practices and games. My husband coached their little league teams and drove them to different states when they played on travel teams. We hardly ever missed a game and when their high school team made it to the State Class A Tournament we couldn't have been more excited. They were known locally as The Twin Towers and watching them dunk was more fun than dancing in my disco dress.
I have a good friend who owned a tee-shirt shop and she made me a special shirt to wear to the twins games. Looking at it reminds me of all the joy our boys brought us during their basketball career.
I told you at the beginning of this story that I was a sentimental fool. I know it's silly to keep an old bath robe, a disco dress, a shirt with a hole in it and a basketball tee shirt that I will never wear to another ballgame, but the fact of the matter is that in a way they tell the story of my life. Looking at them I remember my grandmother's love and the powerful influence she had on my life. I reflect on the youthful exuberance and freedom of my teen and college years. The shirts bring back happy memories of when our children were young.
I just can't, or I won't, get rid of them. I suspect the sentimental things a person can't bear to part with says more about them than the items they give away.
So tell me, what's in your closet?