Hand-me-downs-Handed down to one person after being used and discarded by another. – thefreedictionary.com
Many of us grew up wearing hand-me-downs. I was the only girl in my family but was lucky enough to have a fashionable aunt who was not much older and would pass her very cool clothes to me.
When my daughter was about two and a half, she said to me one day, “No more blue jammies, mama. I want pink jammies.” And that was the end of her wearing her older brothers’ hand-me-down one piece zip up pajamas. Yes, I went out and bought pink ones for her from then on.
But as a friend of mine pointed out recently, not all hand-me-downs are clothing. There are many kinds of hand-me-downs including cars and furniture…usually from parents to children, hand-me-down plants, recipes, books, board games, clocks, button boxes, tools, pictures, linens, toys, dishes, jewelry, family traditions, decorations, …and even attitudes, and pets.
As my youngest brother was preparing to leave for college, he asked if he could hand down his pet goldfish to my children. I had two little boys and he thought they might think it cool to adopt their uncle’s pet. “Besides,” he said, “Gus is about a year old and goldfish don’t live very long.” Well…four years later I was still cleaning hand-me-down Gus’s goldfish bowl once a week. Good old Gus lived for five or six years and when he died, we were sad to see him go.
My husband lost his dad when he was a young child, and some of his most treasured possessions are his dad’s tools that his mom handed down to him. He says they are the only tools he cares about.
Some of my favorite hand-me-downs are recipes from my mom, my grandmothers, and other friends and family. Their names are at the top of the cards and I think of them whenever I make their recipes. I see many names of loved ones whenever I cook during the holidays.
This past week, I asked my friend, Sandy, for a recipe and she scanned and emailed the original recipe card which was written in the hand of her sister and my friend, Jan, who died in July. I didn’t realize it was Jan’s recipe and now I treasure that hand-me-down even more.
If I had to choose my favorite hand-me-downs though, they would be my hand-me-down Christmas decorations. They are hands down my favorite…pun intended.
My great-grandfather was a machine parts inventor. He also liked to create things for his home. About 100 years ago, he built a Christmas church scene with a wood board as the base. The fence around the churchyard is made from small tree limbs that were painted white. A wind up music box plays “Silent Night” and there is a bulb inside which illuminates the “stained glass” windows. The church was a part of each Christmas season during my childhood, and as a girl I was mesmerized by it. Today when I look at it, I think of my great-grandfather so lovingly and meticulously building it for his family to enjoy at Christmas.
Many of the ornaments on my tree were passed down two generations from my grandparents to my mother and then to me. The glass is so old and thin that I am almost afraid to breathe when I hold some of them. And then there are the plastic icicles that were yellowed with age when my mom passed them to me. Soaking in soapy bleach water for an hour made them white again and now they too, hang on my tree.
My mom used to put out an old, ceramic Santa every Christmas. When I had my own home and began collecting Santa’s, she gave him to me. He is still my favorite.
I also have the stable from the old family nativity scene from my childhood. The people and the animals were very old and fragile and had to be replaced a couple of years ago, but the stable is still beautiful.
This Christmas, my parents gifted me a ceramic Christmas tree made for them by my grandmother almost 50 years ago. It is yet another hand-me-down gift and decoration I will cherish.
When we give our treasures to others, we leave a part of ourselves and our memory behind. As we celebrate this Christmas with decorations and gifts from our past as well as from our present, we remember God’s gift to us when he handed down his only son that holy night so long ago.
Author’s note: Those who follow my blog know that I will be lighting candles outside tonight in my grandmother’s hand-me-down Mason Jars. It’s a tradition I look forward to every Christmas.