Holey Holey Clothes
written by: Cory Q
There are collective stories that get going in families: Beloved vacation memories, the back story to a funny photograph, the explanation of why Great Grandpa sounds like he has been eating gravel*. Sometimes these memories are told in a serious manner. Sometimes they spawn long lived in-jokes. Sometimes they are just the facts that make up the scenery of the ongoing production that is family life.
My son is now just about two years old. During his lifetime I have found one of the side effects of being a parent is a noted perspicacity concerning the self. In other words, I am horrified at how much I am learning about myself this late in the game. There is also the interesting happening of having certain mysteries revealed. The veil has been lifted, for example, on how the hell parents can know so well when kids are lying. Of the various curtains that have been drawn back, the one that has offered me an insight I was unprepared for, is that of The Holey Vestments.
Not Holy, but Holey, as in full of holes, but for this story to really make sense, I should explain how the two collide.
One of the long running jokes in my childhood was that of the Holy/Holey pun concerning my Mother’s clothes. My Mom was notorious for not throwing away clothes that had ostensibly concluded their life as wearable garments. It could be socks, underwear, sweatshirts… it didn’t really matter. She had a lot of holey stuff! What gave this state of affairs real traction is the fact that my Mom’s favorite hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. My Dad and I are notorious for the depth and fervor that we display in our love and pursuit of puns. It didn’t take long before these two things were entwined.
For years the sad state of my Mom’s “Kansas socks” (toe-peek-ah!) and other articles of Hol(e)y clothing was a family joke. Let me be clear. My Mom never went out in public “looking like a bag lady”. It was just around the house. Mom just shooed us away in a kindly fashion and took the puns in stride.
The thing is, now that I am a parent, I’ve got a whole new take on this event.
I’ve noticed a certain unprecedented slide in own wardrobe. My socks are thin at the heels. Very thin. All the waistbands on my underwear seem to be fraying or giving up altogether. My jeans, apart from being vastly out of date, are turning into netting rather than solid fabric. Pin holes are showing up in all of my favorite shirts. When did this happen? How has this occurred?
If I take a solid, honest moment to think about it, I can see what is happening.
There are several factors at play here: Conditions of acquisition, funding, usage/wear time, position of the wearer, and what I like to call talisman value of the garment.
Condition of Acquisition: When you are a kid you get new clothes, maybe not unused, but new to you, on a regular basis. Sometimes getting these new clothes is even a traumatic situation that burns into the folds of the young brain (I’m looking at you socks and sweaters for Christmas…). As an adult, getting news clothes is a chore that happens only when something wears out. If you have to drag a crying kid through a mall to buy yourself a new dress shirt then the time you are willing to wear that older shirt rises. So, as an adult, you are more likely to get holes in your clothes because the condition of acquisition for new is either as a once a year gift or as a cumbersome chore.
Funding: If there are limited funds and time (which I think most families with kids experience), then the child’s needs find funding first. Kids clothes aren’t exactly cheap to buy new but there is a huge subculture or network of folks willing to pass along kids clothes to some other person. The space gained for the removal of old kids clothes is worth giving the clothes away. As a parent of a two year old, I think we have bought less than 25% of my son’s clothes. Obviously it helps to know folks with boys a little bit older than your own. Ok, so free kids clothes looses some funds, but really, other expenses rise to offset clothing expenses. Day care, food bills, toys, art supplies, etc, etc… It becomes difficult to justify $40 for a dress shirt in such an environment. Wear it long enough, the holes start to appear. Same with underwear and socks. If they get you buy, why spend money on them?
Usage/Wear Time: Kids wear through their clothes faster and grow out of them faster too. Usually toddlers will outgrow clothes before they wear out. The only time I grow out of my clothes is as my gut expands and luckily that takes years to come to fruition.
Position of the Wearer: In all of the good parents I have ever met there is a consistent attitude towards the needs (not necessarily the wants) of their kids: The kid’s need comes first. From eating first, using the bathroom first, to getting new clothes first; Parents understand more and can wait in patience. So, while the kiddo should really go get a job and earn their own keep, the good parents are more than willing to go without so that their child will not be in need. Clothes are an easy badge of this. A parent would rather wear a holey shirt than clothe their child in such.
Talisman Value: This is the part of the thought process that really took me some time to crack. Maybe those old ratty sweatshirts that my Mom used to wear weren’t all just economy. Maybe they were symbols. Maybe those tatters were tangible parts of who she was before she was Mom. That Mankato State sweatshirt was a physical reminder that she was once an individual apart and complete and not defined by her kids and her rambler in the suburbs. Maybe it was a talisman of her former self. As I have suffered some turmoil in being redefined as “Dad” and what it means to be shifted into another generation I can see this part of the story so much more clearly.
I guess I am coming to acceptance of these facts. My shirts will have holes. My underwear will be so far from sexy as to be a mockery of the concept. My socks will induce sadness in those that think about them. The t-shirts from the concerts I attended nearly twenty years ago will degenerate into shreds and sad flags. But really? I don’t think I have a problem with it anymore. My son is a happy kiddo with clothes that fit, a jacket that keeps him warm, and a smile for me no matter how out of date and pinholed my shirts get.
*My great grandfather, Odin Olson, was a Norwegian immigrant farmer. Before drop bottom plows came into usage, he hit a rock while plowing. It stopped the machine dead in it’s tracks. He crushed his throat and voice box against the steering wheel of that tractor.
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