About four years ago, a former colleague contacted me. He has four children. He asked if I would be interested in a carload full of little boy clothes that his kids had outgrown, most of them in perfect condition.
I remember, even at the time, thinking that this was an amazing bounty. Little kid clothes, I had discovered, were expensive. Our neighborhood thrift store had just closed. With only one modest salary, we weren’t exactly diving into pools of gold coins à la Scrooge McDuck.
The carload had clothes from sizes three years to six years. They were, along with some Seattle swag from Aunt Poppy, and a steady rotation of mended-kneed sweatpants, what my children have worn for the last four years.
I remember having a very distinct thought, as I went through all those little boy clothes four years ago, “They’ll never be this big. We’ll never get through all of these clothes.” I stored much of the bounty away in various drawers and bins while I waited for the boys to grow.
In March of this year, my boys started wearing the last of these clothes. That day I never thought would arrive had finally arrived. They wore out their sweatpants over the summer on dirt bike paths and skate ramps and playing in the dirt at the park.
They stained their t-shirts with squash soup and paint and permanent markers.
The ragamuffin squad
When August rolled around, I started to panic. These boys had zero pants without holes or patches. They had zero t-shirts without stains. I didn’t care much during the summertime (Drums please). But they would need to look perhaps a little less like homeless ragamuffins should they want to make a palatable impression at their new school.
I bought them each a few t-shirts and pants. It was, as I predicted expensive, but, I presumed, necessary. I sized each of them up a size. I thought I was being smart. School was still a month away, and sales were happening right then. It was now or never, right?
I didn’t show them their new clothes until about a month after I bought them, worried that they would insist on wearing them immediately and manage to stain or put holes in the knees of these new things before school ever got started. When they tried on their new pants, while it wasn’t completely ridiculous, it was kind of too much. Just too big. However, I missed out on the exchange window at the store…so these clothes would have to wait until each of them grew an inch or two.
This left me back at square one: Neither of them had pants without holes. Neither of them had a hoodie that fit and was not permanently discolored from dirt biking. And I had blown our wad on clothes that were too big.
The unexpected conclusion
I started mending furiously and with purpose. And after all this, they still didn’t have hoodies, the staple of their fall and spring wardrobes. The little one had outgrown his winter coat last year about a month after we bought it. I had mended it beyond recognition anyway.
Then, literally out of nowhere, on Tuesday, my husband said, “I have to run over to a colleague’s house.” He did. He came home with the biggest of gigantic Ikea bags.
An Ikea bag full of nearly new size 5-6 little boy clothes. And not just little boy clothes. Winter coats. Fall jackets. Hoodies. A near endless supply of sweatpants without holes or patches.
It felt like Christmas. We emptied the ginormous Ikea bag onto the living room floor and watched the boys go through everything, picking out what they liked. The eldest selected everything Star Wars themed. The little one wanted everything Batman and Darkwing Duck and Snoopy themed. (May I just say, aside from Batman, they have no idea what any of these things are. They just thought the images were cool.)
My youngest, who has never seen a hat he didn’t like, did a fashion show of at least five different winter hats and gloves and scarves. He tried on an amazing almost-brand-new winter coat. And more pants! Did I mention those pants!? So many perfect sweatpants in exactly the right size!
We would start the school year without the constant need to be mending things. They had the feeling of having chosen.
When this kind of thing happens, when exactly our needs are met, in a tremendously unexpected way, there is nothing to feel but grateful.
I forget so quickly about the idea of faith and provision and asking and receiving. In my worry that the boys would be ragamuffins at school, I went out and tried to take care of the problem myself. If I had remembered those things, maybe I wouldn’t have spent too much money on pants that were too big. Maybe I wouldn’t have worried in the first place.
I am just so grateful for this kind of provision. It may not look like a miracle from the outside, but it sure does feel like one from the inside.
What I can’t figure out how to do is remember. How can I set a reminder for myself when I start to worry? When a need crops up, how can I not jump into “problem solver” mode?
Worry is so overrated.