The Great Clothing Continuum

The Art and Magic of Not Buying Baby Items

Originally published November 11, 2010

Before Muffin and Squeaker were born, Michael and I followed the Orthodox Jewish tradition of not preparing ahead of the birth for the coming child–or, in our case, children. I had vague plans to put in some orders online during the three weekdays that I would not be working before the girls’ birth, but that plan was scuttled by the girls being born five days earlier than planned. So while I was in the hospital, my mother went out and bought us the bare minimum that we would need to clothe the girls in their first few days of life. We had enough clothing to bring them home from the hospital and to survive until the first load of laundry was done, but that was all we had.

Thankfully, our rabbi and his wife loaned us some clothing to get us through. They have a number of children and therefore they have bins of clothing sorted by size. Since at the time their children were not using the bin of 0-3 month size clothing, they were happy to let us borrow it.

And then the floodgates opened.

See, within a section of our circle of friends, Muffin and Squeaker are the first girls to be born in a number of years. So a significant number of families who have older girls have been saving clothing in their attics and basements waiting for the next girl to come along. And since we have two girls we need to dress, we were more than happy to accept. We quickly discovered that if you know families with children who are just enough older than yours, you can go years without having to spend money on baby items.

Clothing comes to us from all over. Friends right here in Brookline, Newton, and Brighton drop by with bins of clothing. A friend in Florida puts clothing in Priority Mail boxes as her two-year-old outgrows it, and when a box is full it gets brought to the Post Office and a new box takes its place. When the girls are dressed, Michael will often ask, “Who are they wearing?” He doesn’t want to hear Calvin Klein or Donna Karan; he wants to hear “That’s Alissa’s top and Katie’s pants.”

So why is this “the great clothing continuum”? Because, for the most part, the parents who have been saving articles of clothing in their attics and cellars for all these years don’t want them back. They want us to use the onesies, dresses, and pajamas, and then pass them along to the next baby girl that needs them. As Muffin and Squeaker outgrow items, we will pass clothing along to more than one family, creating branching in the continuum but continuing the clothing along on its journey.

It’s not just clothing that inhabits the continuum, either. Baby swings, cribs, and myriad toys pass from family to family and baby to baby. We benefited from the largesse of others providing us with enough toys to keep our girls occupied until they start preschool (and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that, some days, Muffin and Squeaker would rather play with the cardboard boxes and plastic containers that the toys came in than with the toys themselves).

Friends of ours who live here in Brookline are expecting a baby in December. I have already told both parents-to-be that they should check with me before buying anything for the new baby, as we have stuff to return to the flow of the continuum. The sex of the baby is unknown, so I am organizing three sets of items: baby girl clothing (of which we have a great deal), gender-neutral clothing (of which we have some, courtesy of the mom-of-son-and-daughter in Florida who is sending us clothing that both of her kids wore), and non-clothing items for which the baby’s sex is irrelevant.

One of the items in this third category is a pink nursing pillow. I am its third owner. It originated with a friend of ours who had a girl. It then passed to another friend who had a boy but who was not concerned about nursing her son on a pink pillow. It then came to me, and I look forward to passing it along. Of course, if the mom-to-be doesn’t feel comfortable nursing her (currently hypothetical) son on a pink pillow, I can give her my other nursing pillow, the one with rocket ships on the pillow case. And that’s the glory of the continuum: if there’s something you need, it is likely available.

This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.

About this column: The adventures of two Brookline parents and their twin daughters, Muffin and Squeaker. This column originally appeared on the Brookline Patch website. Copyright 2010 by Brookline Patch.

This entry was posted in Columns and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.