In the back of my drawer, so far back that I rarely dig down deep enough to see what’s there, is a shirt my husband got for me soon after we were married. I’ve only worn it handful of times, even though it is in good condition and still fits me fine. But I like to look at it more than wear it. It has a distinct power that very few pieces of clothing have ever had. And that’s because I remember how hard my new husband looked to find a shirt that would be exactly what I needed and wanted.
He went to store after store. Made phone calls, ordered packages. And when the shirt finally came, it wasn’t what he’d been looking for. But I loved it anyway. I loved it for the thought and effort that he put into it, and I loved it because it signaled to me the lengths he would go to make me happy. So I wore it a few times, and then I tucked it away. Every time I go through my clothes now to find things to donate, it comes up and I wonder, Is it time to get rid of this? Have I held on long enough? And every time I think, No. I still need that. I still want it.
I hadn’t given much thought to why I needed and wanted it still. I told myself that I might still wear it sometime. Or that it would make a good story to tell my kids about. And maybe, one day, I’d give it to my daughter and it would be a cool-retro shirt that her mom used to wear when she was young and childless. But this week when I read Lisa-Jo Baker’s piece about holding on to her pre-mom jeans, I realized that there is a lot more to it than that. The shirt is a reminder and a connection. It’s value is nearly entirely symbolic to me now, and it’s a symbol that I want to keep around.
Ms. Baker writes about the stories her jeans could tell as she’s become a mother and her body has changed. She grew to fit into herself so that the fit of her jeans doesn’t matter so much. I love that, and I feel it too. What my body did and can do and does now that I’ve had three kids makes the clothes that I wore and the things that I used to do, before I became a mom, pale in comparison. But I hold onto reminders of those times anyway.
It’s important to stay connected to those prior versions of ourselves, even as we become much more than we anticipated we could be. We find our footing in the world, raise families, develop talents, and gain new perspectives. But we wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t been somewhere else first, and the clothes we wore are a tangible connection to that past – which is why it is worth giving some space at the back of the drawer for them.
Here are some of the reasons I hold on to my “pre-mom jeans” (and other pieces of my past).
More by Lizzie: