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Monday, September 15, 2014

Seeing Old Friends Again


When and where I grew up, it was commonplace to have seasonal wardrobes. Northern latitudes, when you dress for the seasons, kind of call for it. The lengthening nights and falling temperatures evoke desires for wooly sweaters and cozy flannel, even in the absence of store displays (which stupidly begin pushing the season in the heat of August.) And later, along with the rivulets of melting snow and ice, the dawn of mud season brings a longing for fewer layers, summer colors and a return to the feel of crisp cottons and linen.

Just like in "the old days," when clothing was expected to last for years, the choices in one's closet and bureau were fewer and new clothes came only as replacements for garments that were used up, worn out, re-made for a smaller family member and ultimately relegated to the rag bag (remember those??), my seasonal clothing swap involves taking out and putting away, a much larger laundry day and plans for winter sewing sessions, not a trip to the store. When the urge and need for different duds strikes each fall, it's an emotionally rich chore, as I bid seasonal farewell to my summer favorites and rekindle the acquaintance of my fall and winter "friends."

"Old clothes" -- those that have been around the familiar cycle many times -- truly feel like old friends to me. They bring back memories of when and why they were bought or made, the years of intervening wear, the seasons when certain items were relegated to the back of the closet because of living in a different climate and sometimes even a single event that caused the garment to move from the "good" to "everyday" pile.

This year I did it all a bit differently. Rather than just going through the boxes that were labeled for fall and winter, we brought every clothing storage box into the house for a thorough going through, sorting and re-labeling. Now that I am no longer working, clothes fit into one of two use categories: town or farm. And rather than trying to keep them sorted by type of garment (shirts in this box, skirts in that, pants in another) I am simplifying only by season: spring/cool summer, summer, warm fall (short sleeve fall theme or color shirts, dresses, etc.) and winter. Winter is by far the bulkiest category, of course, so there are many empty boxes at present. I was able to let go of a good size pile of things that have not seen use in the last few years, as well as a few things that don't fit or that I have never really liked.

I know I need to look for fabric and make a new robe. In the winter, with my hang to dry obsession, I really need one to wear when the other is not quite dry yet, and one of the old ones has been relegated to the rags. I may need a coat for going to town; when I did the spring shuffle, I sent my old jackets off to charity as one didn't fit well and the other, a huge puffy short jacket, left my lower parts cold and made my torso feel like I was channeling the Michelin man. I do have my wonderful wool cape with the waterproof lining (it's reversable) so I may not need a coat, but it is in my awareness should the right material and pattern present themselves.

One thing about knowing your "old friends" well, is that you miss them when they don't come to the party! One box, apparently, remains hidden... it contains some good, heavy weight turtleneck shirts and my long johns. I remember these going out together rather later than some of the other stuff, so when do chores today I will look for them. Bringing in boxes last night, in the gathering twilight, it would have been easy to over look a box or a bag in the back corner of the garage.

Each of the newly filled boxes currently contains a 2x5 card contents label, which I will tape to the end of the box as I complete the filling later this week once the laundry is done and in, and they can go back to their resting place in the garage. For now, I am glad to have my flannel nightgowns and a robe, more long sleeve shirts and my old chore coat for the gathering chill. We have predicted lows in the 30s this week... last year our first frost came with the Equinox weekend... and have not yet cleaned and refilled the space heater, so warm duds are most welcome. And old friends warm me in more than one way.