24: Giving New the Boot

24: Giving New the Boot

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Giving New the Boot

I love charity thrift stores. Amazing one-of-a-kind pieces at terrific prices, and all the money you spend goes to a good cause.

~Lara Spencer

“Look what he’s done!” My eight-year-old daughter and her six-year-old brother were returning from their first day of the new school year. Rhys had left the house wearing grey high-tops and Levis and a crisp blue and grey football shirt, all purchased especially for the occasion. “Look!” Ceily repeated theatrically, flinging her arms toward her brother’s incomprehensible state of disrepair.

His new shoes were suggesting at least six month’s steady wear. The Levis, although they still retained most of one knee and surprisingly all of the other, clearly posed the question as to how much longer this would be the case. The blue and grey football shirt? Well, obviously Rhys had painted with black and orange and red; and, clearly, there had not been enough paint smocks for the entire class.

“Oh Rhys!” I said. Not surprised but, nonetheless, disappointed. “However, did you manage…?”

“It was a rough day,” he interjected, “and the clothes were squeezy and stiff.”

“Stiff… squeezy,” I repeated. “Well, you know that your kindergarten clothes don’t fit anymore, so I guess it’s shorts and a T-shirt tomorrow until I see if I can do anything with these…” and I paused, considering what I should call the once pristine outfit.

The following day, I relayed the story to my sister. “We had a good talk after he was in bed — his dad away and us not having a lot of money, trying to make ends meet as they say…. Of course, we’ve had this conversation before and I’m sure that the next time he won’t wipe painty hands on his shirt; he’ll use magic marker on the buttons or something like that. It’s never the same thing but it’s always something.”

“Have you thought about buying his things from the thrift shop until he gets a little less impulsive?”

The thrift shop? The core of my being gave a violent shudder. Granted, I had peered in the store several times and once I had even seen a window display that seemed rather attractive. But dress one of my children from the thrift shop? What if another child or another parent recognized the clothing? What if someone saw me in there?

When both knees of the Levis disappeared and I had to turn the pants into shorts, I decided, at the expense of my misguided pride and ego, to explore my sister’s suggestion.

“Cool!” said my son when he saw my bargains. “Man! These are exactly like Dooley’s.” I said nothing.

The year wore on and both children’s clothes wore out; and, eventually, I brought home two sweaters and a pair of jeans for Ceily. They were in excellent condition. And then one afternoon in spring, I found the perfect lightweight skirt and shirt for myself. “Why not?” I thought. “They’re like new and anyway, who’s to know?”

With time, my two children discovered first fad and then fashion. But me? Well that perfect lightweight skirt and shirt led to a perfect pair of jeans and then to a perfect sweater. Eventually I found myself checking the thrift shop before I purchased new clothing or kitchen cutlery or even hinges for the bathroom cabinet.

I had joined the community of and discovered the comradeship of the surprisingly large number of truly dedicated recyclers. Together, we relished the thrill of the hunt and of putting the secondhand boot to our throwaway society. We found ourselves wearing each other’s shirts and jackets and instead of hiding, we acknowledged and took pleasure from the fact that we were supporting the local hospital thrift shop and at the same time proving that new was not always nicer nor was it always necessary. For sure, less could be more in many, many different ways.

~Robyn Gerland


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