I helped my mother change her closets last month. It’s an odd expression when you think about it. When we were finished, nothing about the closets was really changed. They still held slacks, shoes and jackets. It’s not as if we were replacing bi-fold doors with sliding ones.
She still lives in my tiny childhood home and has single-handedly filled every open space that used to be shared by four people. She is to Alfred Dunner what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. Those of you who know her will agree that what she wears to Wal-Mart is dressier than what most people wear for Easter. I’m glad that she still takes such pride in her appearance, but changing closets, especially hers, is the one chore in life I dread the most.
Growing up, the ceremonial moving of the garments was a big deal. They say in the South you aren’t a man until your father tells you that you are. It was sort of like that at our house when it came to seasons. It wasn’t officially fall until my mother declared it to be. Regardless of the calendar dates or cooler temperatures, summer wasn’t over until sweaters were neatly folded in the drawers and long sleeves hung from racks. The effort was grueling. Not because the wire hangers cut into my hand while I hauled stuff from a storage unit to my room. Nor was it because the clothes mountain on my bed slowly slid onto the floor like lava flowing down Mount St. Helens. It was the fashion show. All incoming pieces had to fit before they could be hung. For hours, I’d stand in my skivvies waiting to try on each piece. “Now, walk down the hall and let me see how it hangs in the back,” my mother would repeatedly say. You have to understand that I’m a plain Jane and my sister is a girly-girl. Making me parade in her hand-me-downs only added insult to injury. Her dresses had more ruffles than a Frito-Lay truck.
Unlike my mother, nowadays I don’t put myself through the ordeal. Besides, if I pulled out what I own and what I can actually wear, there would be two very different piles. Every December, I promise my husband that I’ll go through my stuff to make a Goodwill donation. Every year I break that promise. It’s not that I don’t want to take the time to weed out what doesn’t fit. I already know what doesn’t fit. What doesn’t fit practically takes up the entire closet. What does fit is paired in outfits and usually hung on the back of a door so I can easily find something to wear in the mornings. Giving away means giving up. Getting rid of my clothes proclaims that all hope is gone. Chances are every woman reading this piece just nodded. Who hasn’t pulled out pants and said, “These would look great if I would just lose ten pounds.”
Maybe that’s it. Maybe what I dislike most about the process, whether I’m a kid or an adult, is that it isn’t about welcoming a new season. It’s about documenting that I’m getting older and bigger, which isn’t nearly as much fun as it was in elementary school. Even though my mother and I begin our new seasons differently, we do have one thing in common. We still buy our clothes off the rack, even though we have a closetful still on them.