Writes of passage

>> Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Today, I had to do something unexpectedly difficult.

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that sometime in the next year there's a strong possibility we'll move on from Russia.  In an effort to minimise the fuss when / if that actually happens, I am slowly but surely trying to empty the house of 'stuff' that we won't want to take with us (for which read; pay to move from one country to another), which we have accumulated during the last 5 years.

Mostly, this 'stuff' is associated in some shape or form with the Boys.  Toys, books, outgrown clothes, skates and shoes. You know; all the things that you curse when they stop you closing a cupboard door or the lid of a toy box, or which form an unsightly heap in the corner of your children's bedroom.  Things that you want to pass on that aren't quite good enough to give to friends, but which are too good to just throw out.

There are no Oxfams here, you see.  No handy shops on the high street that will be happy to pass your kids' pre-loved snowpants on to less fortunate children.  Certainly, there are charitable organisations that will do a similar job, but you have to know where they are and then - in this traffic-congested city - get the 'stuff' you want to donate to them delivered.

Catering to an expat population constantly in motion, the Boys' school does a good job of taking some of the strain; there's a thriving exchange for slightly worn unwanted school uniform items, there's a second-hand library where you can sell or replace books that are no longer relevant with ones that your kids might actually read, and there's a yearly 'skate swap' that takes some of the financial pain away, but there are still some things that there just isn't much call for.

Like, dressing up clothes.

My two boys have, in their time, loved dressing up.  Boy #1 is mostly past that now (sadly), but Boy #2 less so - the knights' outfit, the cuddly lion, the Power Ranger and the wizard still surface from time to time.  Unfortunately, however, there were a plethora of other dress-up outfits that whilst still much loved, don't fit anymore.  That'll happen when the label says '4 - 5 years' and your youngest child is going on 9...

So this morning, I took 13 - yes, THIRTEEN - dressing up outfits to the school, for the pre-Halloween costume swap.  As I stood there handing them over one at a time and explaining what they were, I was struck by an almost overpowering impulse to stuff them all back into my blue Ikea hold-all and run away with them.  All of a sudden it seemed as if I was giving away my children's memories rather than just random pieces of material.

I know, I can't keep them.  That would be ridiculous.  I already have a basket containing various small items of clothing that I can't bring myself to part with; a baby-grow, a blanket, that lovely shirt they both wore one after the other when they reached 4 years old, those cute baby socks.  That revolting sweater that was part of Boy #1's school uniform in London, the faded over-sized t-shirt they consecutively wore on beach holidays to keep them out of the sun.

Yes; keeping their dress up clothes as well is out of the question.  And it's certainly not necessary from their point of view; they were completely unconcerned when I suggested we get rid of the Bob the Builder / Fireman Sam outfit (reversible and oh-so-handy), the skeleton, chef, vet and doctor outfits, the 3 sets of pirate garb in varying sizes, the princes cloaks, the fireman kit, and police uniforms still with matching hats.

It's me who has the problem.

I think it's because this is such tangible evidence of the fact that Boys #1 and #2 are growing up.  This morning I felt not as if I was simply handing over brightly coloured pieces of material.  I felt rather that I was saying goodbye to the two small boys who used to race about the house chasing each other with pirate swords, or stopping traffic on the floor of the playroom, or helping me in the kitchen dressed in a floppy chef's hat.  As if I was bidding farewell to the sensation of a small warm hand in mine during the walk home from school, and the feeling of the embrace of a hot sleepy pre-schooler's arms around my neck when they were too tired to walk up the stairs to go to bed.

You would have been proud of me, though.  Instead of snatching it all back and wailing 'I don't want to!  I'm not ready!  Give them back!', I smiled, watched the other mums with kids younger than mine get excited about what we'd donated, and walked on to the next stage.

Because that's what mums do.

(Mind you, god knows what I'm going to do with 13 swap tickets.  I would say there is every chance that come Saturday, when the swap actually takes place, I may actually find myself buying half of the costumes back...)


Nappyvalleygirl,  14 October 2014 at 13:18  

You've brought a tear to my eye....I think these things every time I give the boys' clothes away.

expatmum,  14 October 2014 at 15:06  

Goodness what a coincidence. I am having a tidy up (which always involves chucking things out) and I have just put back on the shelf two books that were given to my 21 year old as baby gifts. She has already told me that I'm obviously keeping stuff for myself and I am NOT to hand it over to her when we leave this house, which should make me firmer with the junk (sorry, keepsakes) I have. My in-laws brought three boxes of stuff my MIL had been keeping for my husband and most of it went straight out the back door. He had no interest in it at all. But I find that every time I go through my five boxes of keepsakes, something doesn't make the cut and goes in a bin bag. Gotta be firm with yourself.

wren,  15 October 2014 at 04:42  

I can so relate to this! Lucky you are moving I say! We moved often when the kids were little, and if we hadn't I would probably still have many more things than I should... I found it helped having some good photographs of kids in their dress ups - we are now at the other end where these photographs are being shown to much amusement at their 21st parties!!! And dare I say it I would now be keeping them for any grandkids which are probably a decade off !
Enjoy knowing these dress ups are appreciated by the next generation of kids.
Now all you need is the strength of character to put all those swap tickets in a little bowl by the entrance with a sign saying 'please take' and you will be all set to make the move to the next place!
Have a great week
Wren x

Iota Manhattan 15 October 2014 at 14:23  

Bob the Builder reversible with Fireman Sam! Give that designer an award. Brilliant.

Um... well.. I started off thinking I was going to comment about how moving house at various stages is jolly healthy because it makes you thin out all this kind of stuff, so that when they're 18 and leaving for college, you don't still have bedrooms full of it. But then, I went all soft (it was that bit about the arms round the neck when they're too tired to walk up the stairs), and I have nothing to say except, yes, it's hard to move on.

I re-enacted Toy Story, when we moved back from the US to the UK. We had a Buzz Lightyear, who had been a total favourite for years. He was in really good condition, because he'd been looked after very carefully. I confidently offered him to my son (11 at the time), saying he could keep a few special toys even though he'd grown out of them. Son said no, it was ok, Buzz could go. I had no idea that I would have to make the choice myself, instead of being able to hid behind the "oh well, then, you can keep him if you really want to" that I'd had planned. It was a dreadful moment. I did say goodbye to Buzz, but I miss him still!

MsCaroline,  21 October 2014 at 11:52  

Oh, the dress-up-box..ouch. That one was so difficult - the pirate hook, the Superman and Batman capes...sigh. Best memory I have, though is of #1, who had been Batman for Halloween when he was 3 or so, and, at every opportunity for years, would squeeze himself back into his costume whenever he felt like being especially dashing. At the end, the costume (which was 1 piece) was sort of an off-the shoulder/knickerbocker arrangement that was so ridiculously small that it was slightly risque. MrL referred to him as "Capri-pant Batman." We still laugh about that one.

almost_bedtime,  31 October 2014 at 01:19  

I am also in the process of moving and packing up our home. I have four kids, two are still preschoolers so i don't have to give up everything right now (the my little ponies, barbies and princess dress up clothes in our case). But I can feel your pain. It's so hard to say goodbye to stuff, and you're right it is like giving their childhood memories away. Well done though for going through with it.

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