One morning last week Rascal came over to me as I dressed Miss M. He had a very somber expression on his face.
RASCAL: I need to tell you something.
He begins most of his speeches this way, or words to that effect. He has a lot to say, this one does.
RASCAL: I think we have enough toys. Let’s sell the ones we have and give them to the poor. And our beds. We can sell those too. We have sleeping bags.
I was not enthused at the idea of sleeping in a sleeping bag for the rest of this pregnancy.
ME: Well, you might miss your bed.
RASCAL: (eyes starting to brim) But Mom, there’s poor people. And they have nothing.
I pulled him close and comforted him, explaining how we give to charities that truly help those less fortunate. I showed him a letter about a special toy drive and promised we’d participate. That made him feel better.
And then I got the e-mail from church. The one asking for baby and children clothes. I thought of Rascal–“those people have nothing.” I thought of the bin of boys’ clothes in the garage–the clothes that haven’t been worn in 1-6 years and likely not again for another 2, even were a nephew to show up. I texted my husband to see if we should give a little away.
HIM: Send ’em all.
I gulped. I went to the garage and pulled out the bins. I began to pile up all the winter clothes. I about cried over every one. I was not a cheerful giver at that moment. I wanted to cling to all of it still for memory’s sake. After all, I had already weeded out the stuff I hadn’t wanted to keep last summer. Going through this bin again was like seeing my big boys as toddlers–a very chaotic time in my life that somehow seems rosy hued at the moment. There was the sweats I bought the night I found the everlasting Pumpkin costume (which costume I still have). There was the wool coat and hat Trooper wore for his first Christmas home. Oh my, the matching sweatshirts that I bought for the boys when Dino was born. The sweater Trooper wore at Jacob’s funeral. The sweaters in Christmas card pictures. The sweater Rascal wore in the 18 month picture that his great-grandma loved. The helicopter jammies. The first John Deere shirt. Do I really need to give this all away?
Then Rascal joined me.
RASCAL: Hey, whatcha doing?
ME: (talking through the lump in my throat) The church asked us to bring clothes. Remember that big storm we heard about on the news? There’s a lot of people who lost homes from it. They need clothes for their kids.
RASCAL: (practically claps his hands and gets down to action) Okay, great! Toys–do they need toys? And look Mom–a Christmas tree (pointing to the Advent tree my father-in-law made)!
ME: Um, no dear, just clothes. That’s all the church asked for at this time. And we are not giving the tree that Granddad made.
RASCAL: Okay, so are we giving this? And this?
And bit by bit he helped me take all the clothes to the laundry room for an out-of-storage freshening. Unblinded by sentiment, he was ready not only to “give your coat, but the shirt from your back as well” as the verse sort of goes. In fact, he was ready to give everyone’s shirt. Princess found us working and also saw the bin of girl clothes that I had moved to get to the baby boy bin.
PRINCESS: Oh! Oh my pink dress! Oh I want to wear it. (Nope–that’s a summer dress). Oh! OH! My swimsuit! I missed it! I want my swimsuit! Can I wear it?
Before I could reply, Mr. Zealous turns to his sister and says very matter-of-factly:
RASCAL: I’m sorry, [Princess], but we’re giving it to the poor.
And then I had to wipe away her tears and remind the boy that the church had only requested that parishioners donate winter clothes. Swimsuits are not required at the East Coast this time of year. That being said, I wish I had been less self-centered. He was ready to give so much just because others needed it. I was ready to hold onto so much just because he wore it five years ago. Who was being childish there?
I’m grateful for the lessons they teach me.