Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.
I don’t really like the term Hand Me Downs. It gives the impression of the younger brother or sister who always had to wear older siblings clothing and never received anything new; or of being considered a poor relation and an object of charity. I prefer to think of myself as the guardian or curator of our family history in the form of possessions and memories.
As I am the older of two sisters I didn’t have to wear hand me down clothing often. Occasionally I was given some from a cousin who was a few years older but my sister often complains even now that she had to wear not only my discarded clothing but some from another cousin as well.
I should say that I was not ashamed to wear pre-loved clothes, it’s just more fun to get something new that you have some say in choosing yourself. Pre-loved clothing was not always the colour or style that suited you and was frequently too large.Mum would then utter the dreaded words “You’ll grow into it.” Again, this happened to my sister more often than me as I was solid while she was a slip of thing. As an adult I have worn clothing that was passed on to me by other relatives and have bought clothing at Op Shops. Recycling is great. I just don’t like the term “hand me downs”.
There are other things that have been passed down through both my family and my husband’s family that would only be knick knacks to others but to us are family heirlooms. For me it is a collection of brass ornaments which my grandmother bought while the family was living in Egypt and India in the 1930s. I doubt they are valuable but when I look at them I remember sitting listening to mum telling us stories from her childhood. Even more precious are the old photographs that I am now the custodian of. Pictures of my grandparents as young people, of mum and her brother and sisters as children, a special album of photos taken by the aunt that died in India, mum’s wedding album and the photos she took of us as children. I also have mum’s collection of monkey ornaments. She loved monkeys and people would always give them to her as gifts.
On Hubby’s side we have a ship in a bottle thought to have been made by his great-grandfather who was a sailor and came from Denmark or maybe Norway. We have some pictures that belonged to Hubby’s parents and a couple that came from his grandmother’s house and some ruby glasses that belonged to a favourite aunt. All these things were part of his life for a long time so it feels right to have them here.
Of course there are other things that get passed on too like mum’s recipe for beef stew which my sister and I still both make in winter. There are bad jokes like when one of us says “I’ll go and put the kettle on.” and the other says “I didn’t think it would fit you.” My sister and I remember how mum hated that her in laws referred to cutlery as “tools” so sometimes when we’re together instead of offering to lay the table for dinner I’ll say “I’ll get the tools.” I still have my “lucky” sponge cake pans, they belonged to my grandmother and I used them when I first learned to make cakes and I have a fork she used to use to mix them with. I still use that sometimes although I’m lazy and prefer an electric mixer for most things.
Yes, there is a lot to be said for Hand Me Downs.