Kids & Parenting

Outerwear coats and the memories of childhood

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kids in snow
Who knew outerwear, coats or hats could become precious memories?
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What might look like some outwear coats or hats might be much more

If you live in a four season climate, there's a ritual you're probably very familiar with. It happens every spring and autumn and every year seems to be more of a challenge than the year before.  It's called the seasonal changing of the clothing.

When I lived in a cold climate, every spring I swore that this year would be different. I would be organized.  I would sort through the clothes before packing them away, and make good decisions about what would fit the kids next year. This would be the year I would carefully decide which outwear coats sweaters and sweatshirts were worth keeping for another year.  Autumn was never quite as difficult -- after a full summer of playing hard, gardening, hiking and swimming there were few clothes worth keeping. A couple of boxes into the top of the closet and we were done.

But spring was different.  Each and every spring, we would start packing things away too soon, probably hoping that our optimism would bring a quick end to winter.  And inevitably, we would end up digging through the boxes and closets, looking for a jacket or sweater for that early spring snowstorm.  Clothes would end up back in drawers and closets, making three or four trips into and out of storage boxes before summer finally took control.

And then somewhere around early June, everything that looked remotely winter-like would be unceremoniously shoved into bulging storage bins.  Stained sweatshirts, odd gloves and one already outgrown snow boot would join the pretty sweaters, outwear and coats in a mass of complete disorganization.  Into the storage room they would go, while I was telling myself that some rainy afternoon I would sort through them all before summer ended.

And then we would play, the boxes long forgotten except when they got in the way of looking for a box of craft supplies or some games we'd stowed in the storage room, too. 

Then, almost without warning, one morning we would wake up to a certain chill in the air, and by nightfall, someone was looking for a sweatshirt.  Then school would start, and the boxes would be hauled out and dumped as the search for warm clothing started.  There would be shouts of delight as a favorite sweater appeared and lots of questions about why we bothered to pack away so many ratty sweatshirts.  Gloves would be paired up, with the unfortunate singles consigned to the craft bin for future puppet projects.  Trash bags would be filled with cast off clothing not worthy of a trip to the thrift store drop off. 

When it came to the kids, almost every item had to be tried on.  Again, I resolved to do better the next spring.

But on one autumn day, just a couple of years before we moved away from winter for good, something different happened. As I watched the kids trying on last year's winter clothes, I started to wonder why last winter's nearly outgrown coat had been packed away for this season. Surely I knew the child who owned it would have sprouted up at least another two sizes over the summer. And then I remembered how cute she had looked in that coat last February when she came racing down the snowy hill on a sled, arms thrown up in joy, and I knew why I hadn't given it away.

After everyone had disappeared into their rooms carrying their share of the winter gear, outerwear coats and gloves, I looked through the pile remaining. Boots without mates mixed with outgrown snowsuits and tattered sweaters.  Each item reminded me of some precious moment last year.  I sifted through the memories and the clothes, putting some things into give-away boxes, others into craft bins, some into the trash.  But a few special things, now far too small for the children who played in them last winter, went into memory boxes. 

Would they remember that winter in some distant year when they looked through their boxes?  I hoped so.  These were more than just piles of discarded outerwear coats gloves sweaters hats'they were bits of childhood. 

When the floor was finally cleared and the boxes of give-aways hauled to the van for a trip into town, I thought about next spring and getting organized.  Then I remembered the memory boxes and the little coat last worn on a snowy day in the park. I looked out the window and watched the leaves falling and knew that winter and more snowy memories were close at hand.

Maybe my system for carrying out the annual spring ritual wasn't so bad after all. 

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