Clothing in on Things

(Note: I tried like hell to make these pictures larger.  I even asked Harrison to help me.  He was snarky about it and blamed it on the fact that the pictures were taken on my phone, but I have taken other pictures on my phone which have enlarged easily.  I am too tired and emotional to mess with it any longer…so grab your readers and have at it.  xo)

For the past four months, this is what has greeted me when I entered my bedroom:

If you are wondering what exactly you are looking at, welcome to the pile of threads which used to clothe my youngest child, (when she was a son) George (when she was George.) While I long ago stopped consciously thinking about, I couldn’t help but take note, ever so briefly, of it each and every time I walked in the room.  Or got something from my dresser.  Or my closet.  I was paralyzed by the thought of dealing with it.  The “what if” phase which implored me to keep it there (you know….just in case), while never out of the question, seems far-reaching for now.  Any visits back by Jessie have, to the best of my knowledge, not happened.  The great plans to make a quilt never materialized and, I suspect, never would although the idea was a beautiful one.  It was time for the heap to be dismantled.

With no drama or fanfare, I went upstairs armed with clean garbage bags.  My initial plan was to put everything into the bags and bring them to the basement for safe keeping and any “just in case” moments.  I know from experience, however, that most of that which goes into my basement (or my freezer, for that matter) tend to stay there until they are thrown away at a later date so I abandoned that idea halfway up the stairs.  Still unclear as to what I would do with them once I had weeded through, I proceeded to go through, item by item, refolding each piece and taking just a split second to reminisce about when it had been worn.  Some were meaningless to me having been hand-me-downs themselves, thereby sparking no memories at all.  Others, however, made me pause and briefly allow myself a moment of reflection and, maybe, just a hint of melancholy.

One in particular was a little red t-shirt that started off as Harrison’s and became George’s (n.c.i.) when each of them were around eight.  It had just four little words – “I didn’t do it” – but pretty much said it all.  They both not only wore it, but wore it proudly for years.  It long ago ceased fitting anyone physically, yet emotionally it still, sadly, rang true.

As I continued going through, I again paused, this time with each dress shirt.  Though worn infrequently – mostly for school pictures, Temple visits and family gatherings – each one, by dint of the special occasions to which they were worn, are memorialized in photographs.  In fact, I sometimes have trouble discerning which kid is in the school picture each year because George (n.c.i.) often (and by often I mean always) wore the same shirt that Harrison had several years before.  Those Gap shirts served the Ross boys well.

I made neat piles separated by t-shirts, sweaters, dress shirts, shorts, pajamas and jeans.  I then, with a little bit of a lump in my throat, summoned Jessie into the room and asked her if there was anything she wanted to save.  (I told her that we could save it all if she wanted.  She declined.)  After thinking about it for roughly a nanosecond, she opted only to keep the tie-dyed shirts.  I suspect that was because she had made them.  Everything else was, basically, dead to her.

So now what?  I simply could not bring myself to put everything into the garbage bags that I had brought for their storage.  Maybe it was because I equate clothing in garbage bags to the old, outgrown stuff that we regularly donate to Goodwill.  Most of this is not yet outgrown.  Some of it, and this is a secret – don’t tell anyone – still had the price tags on. No, I couldn’t go the garbage bag route.  Instead, I went to the basement and unearthed two old laundry baskets (note to self: why were they down there?) and neatly put all the piles into the baskets.   And then I called my sister-in-law. (Stacy has two children, a girl who is a few months younger than Jessie and a seven-year old boy.  In the past, I have passed along the most acceptable of the outgrown clothing and have seen them both don some of the cast-offs.  Hannah, my niece who is deep into her tomboy phase,  favors the old sweatshirts and t-shirts and anytime I spy her wearing something familiar, it warms my heart..  Robert, while still smaller than either of my kids, will look dashing in everything, but I am especially looking forward to the potential of him choosing one of the “school picture shirts” for his school pictures! )  I told Stacy that I had finally attacked the pile and was giving her the right of first refusal.  (I was more than happy to keep everything in the family, but didn’t want to saddle her by moving the pile of clothes in my room into hers unless she wanted them.)  Thank G-d she did, because I had reached the point that if I didn’t get them not only out of my room, but out of my house, I might just possibly lose my mind.

Rich and I loaded up the back of the car and I embarked on the twenty-minute ride to do the drop off.  Highly aware of what I was doing, I took the long way to the house yet still I arrived before she did and secretly appreciated the opportunity to just leave the packages by the door and not have to see or think or talk about them anymore.  It was strange to walk back in to my room when I got home and be greeted by this:

I feel simultaneously relieved and exhausted.  The four months since George became Jessie have been heavy on my shoulders and my heart.  Now, at least when I walk into my room, I am not automatically reminded of all that is going on around me…I need only go across the hall, to the pink, purple and polka-dotted expanse otherwise known as Jessie’s room.

P.S. This is the one shirt (made in Kindergarten) that I will never ever part with.  Take note of not only the name, but the self portrait…of a girl.

P.P.S.  You might be wondering what is on the wall above where the pile of clothing used to reside.  It is a design, made of Wickie Sticks that Harrison and another niece, Rachel put up the day I came home from the hospital after having  my mastectomy.  It used to say “We ❤ JR” but over the years some of the wickies have lost their stickies.  This, along with the kindergarten t-shirt, will stay put forever.

12 thoughts on “Clothing in on Things

  1. Beautiful. It is so hard for many to let go of the past, but also to let go of the “what ifs?” on what we believed to be our future. This pile of clothes is so symbolic and meaningful in so many ways. Good for you for being able to conquer it. Much love and thank you for sharing!

    • Letting go of the past, particularly when the future is so unclear is never easy. Support from people like you, Heather, makes a huge difference!

  2. Hi, Julie.
    I just wanted to tell you that I was thinking of you on Friday. I went to a conference on suicide prevention, and one of the key-note speakers talked about risk among the LGBT population. Basically, what it comes down to is that risk is not greater for people because they are part of that population. It’s a combination of that with how they are received, and what kind of stressful environments and situations they are exposed to. It made me think of you and Jessie, and I felt relieved to know that she (and you) will be just fine. Just from what you write, it is clear that Jessie is clear and confident about who she is. And proud. And while you struggle with the adjustment (which is to be expected, of course), above all you are loving, supportive, and accepting of her. It makes me feel proud of you, from one parent to another. I wish all children struggling with new and complicated situations could have parents as wonderful and open-minded as you. You’re doing a fantastic job. Keep up the good work.

    • I so appreciate this comment. We are doing everything in our power to be supportive and, frankly, it isn’t always easy. I can only hope to do right by this kid. Thank you so much for taking the time to write!

  3. Julie,

    We all need “clothes-jour” at times. I do love that one T shirt, though, and you do,
    indeed, need to keep it forever (if not, you can send it to me for safe keeping).

    Even with my 50 year head start, Jessie is still ahead of me in “transition”. Thanks to you, her path is so much more free of obstacles. Your blog post reminds me of the time my mother found my hidden girl’s wardrobe and immediately stuffed it into garbage bags – and took it straight to the dump (not wanting to take the chance that even the garbage man might find it in the can and figure out this “awful secret”). Of course, had I had the opportunity, I would have retrieved it all from the can myself. Instead, my mother’s attempt to “fix” me, and her denial and paranoia surrounding my “sickness”, only served to reinforce MY denial and paranoia – which is really the “sickness”.

    It’s amazing how much importance is placed on clothing in our culture. As you know, though, the gender issue goes so much deeper than clothing choice. And, your pile of love is so much deeper than that pile of clothing.


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