A while ago I was telling an older acquaintance about how few clothes we need to buy for Amie. We have several generous friends who have daughters a year or so older than Amie and who gladly pass on some clothing.
– I love hand-me-downs, I said.
To which my acquaintance whispered:
– Ssshh, you don’t want Amie to hear that she is wearing those! Its embarrassing!
I was so confused by her reaction that I didn’t respond. But why should I have been confused? Of course hand-me-down clothing is regarded somehow shameful in this society, that is, Western society (my acquaintance is a European who has lived in North America for thirty years). Yet I am now so comfortable in this life of “less is more” that I had managed to forget it altogether.
Or had I?
As we were packing to visit one of those generous friends over the holidays, Amie wanted to bring a special gift for the daughter. My first reaction was to think of where to buy what. But Amie’s reaction was different:
– I can give her this, Mama! she said, holding up her puppet frog in triumph.
Her little friend had enjoyed playing with it when she was over at our house. It was the best gift Amie could give her friend: something of her own, something they had played with together, something that she herself also enjoyed and was joyfully willing to sacrifice, all of which made the gift so much more meaningful than a toy fresh from the shelves of a shop.
I felt so proud of her, and I hope I can foster this attitude toward gift-giving and her own toys and clothes, so that it will stand up to the pressures of society and her peers – all of which she is still mercifully oblivious to.
Now some of these clothes that I get from friends are samples from a well-know store where we can’t even afford to window shop. These are fantastic clothes, well-made in the US, beautifully designed. But they have “SAMPLE” stamped on them, and in the most conspicuous places too, like on the seat of the pants or the back of a sweater.
This morning I dropped Amie off at her preschool and one of the teachers remarked on how amused they were at her pants the other day. One look and I knew it had been kindhearted: no, they hadn’t been laughing at my child. I said:
– Well, you know, she’s my little sample!
And we both laughed.
I am writing an article on a new law concerning lead in children’s products, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which is about to go into effect on 10 February. It could affect thrift and second-hand shops.