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The Ups and Downs of Fashion

Part One, 1997

Lately I've been the beneficiary of goods that someone else has outgrown. These things are usually called hand-me-downs. It's the worn out stuff, the not-yet-ready-for-Goodwill stuff that a parent, sibling, or cousin has gotten too big for or just doesn't want anymore. They are uninterested in it, have moved beyond it to a new level of chic. But since the things to which I have lately become heir to formerly belonged to my daughter, I call them hand-me-ups.

My first new item is a desk reject. “I never use it,” Hana told me, “I always sit on the floor.” Who am I to quibble over her study habits? She has a better GPA than I ever did. So I gave her the plush chair in which I never sat in exchange for the desk at which she never sat. Hana keeps her chair next to the hub of her phone and now I'm no longer a paper-toting nomad in my own house.

The lack of desk in her room somehow prompted Hana to perform a closet and drawer purge. New items of clothing had been coming to roost in her closet, ones with increasingly narrower silhouettes than heretofore. At the end of her activities I found a stack of jeans in my room from her Big Pants Era that had presumably outgrown her! I tried them on. When I climbed into them, most of the jeans fell to my ankles. But during her slimming-down phase, Hana had picked up a pair of jeans that were fitted in the hips and flared wildly from there. Just my style! I wore my new/old loose jeans the next day with a tight little tank top and a nice belt.

When Hana came home from high school with her friend Pam, she jumped up and exclaimed, “Mom! You look so cute! Doesn’t she look cute, Pam? She’s wearing my old jeans.” Hana ran to get her camera. “Here, Pam, take our picture.” We stood together for the shot, smiling and happy with our trades and ourselves. Anyone can see that the Big Pants Look was handed up, too. Who says we don’t learn from our children?

Part Two, 2006

After graduating from college, Hana worked as a medical interpreter, then waiting tables at Chez Panisse restaurant. But she grew restless, and last month left for Spain via Chile, Argentina, and New York. In preparation, she sold or gave away most of her belongings: the car to Karina, guitar to Pablo, bookcase to Ricardo, and all the white wait-staff shirts to Sarah. I was left with five garbage bags of shoes and clothes to offer over to her friends. But I got first pick of Hana’s many sloughed skins.

I hung on to a few items, not because they fit with the color or style of my wardrobe, but because of their recent nearness to my daughter and all her personal scents: perfume, deodorant, body lotion, hair conditioner, and sweat. Like an exotic sachet, the three tees and two tank tops went directly into my drawer. When I wore each piece I caught whiffs of Hana. At the end of the day, I’d bury my face in the garment and take a long, deep, sad inhalation. Sad, because after washing, they’d be plain old shirts again.

Today I donned one of the laundered tees, trying to be content with just the Hana look, but delighted that a faint Hana smell lingered, too. It comforted and reminded me that no matter how far she roams, she’ll always fill up my senses.

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