Years ago, as a youngster, I didn’t have much clothes. Not surprising really, since I was the last child for a single mother of four. As I look back now, I can vividly recall that, when I did get new clothes – my brother (2 years my senior) also got a matching set – sometimes even the same colour. And, perhaps, not surprising as well, was the fact that, when he out-grew his set (if they were still in good condition) – I would inherit it. Even now, I can still see us going to our uncle’s wedding in matching ‘bush-jacket’ suits.
Perhaps it was a cultural thing; because we certainly were not the only ones dressed in that fashion. Twins were more often than not dressed alike! However – almost as a rule – siblings in close age proximity also had to ‘bear the mark’. Yes, in those days, it was difficult to stand out from your brother or sister – if you were of the same gender.
It may well have been economics too! A single mother, trying to feed, clothe, and school four children on a meagre salary, would not have that much to dedicate to fancy clothes. So, we had our ‘Sunday Best’ or church clothes (usually one pair – two, if we hadn’t out-grown the pair from the year before). And our yard clothes – those that we had outgrown … shirts with the sleeves half way up our arms; and pants with the hems well above our ankles. Some, if not most, of the ‘new’ clothes came from ‘farin’ – legacy from an uncle or cousin twice-removed. It saved my mother from having to find the money to get new clothes – so we had to wear what we received.
Even as a child though, I don’t think I liked that scenario. Even then, I treasured my individuality. My right to be me! To be different!
I still treasure, with pride, the memory of having a single pair of khaki uniform (or maybe it was two) heading into my fifth form year at school. It was a chore and a dedication to go home each evening and wash it and hang it behind the fridge for it to dry. Fridges, in those days, came with a metal frame on the back, which made drying clothes an option. In the mornings, I would press it and get ready for school. No one could tell that I didn’t have 5 pairs of uniforms.
I did fairly well in my secondary examinations and went on to sixth form. And the challenge persisted, given that my mother’s economic situation had not changed. Indeed, my recollection is that it was a challenge for her to keep the last three of her children (almost at the same time) in three different high schools! Congratulations to you mommy – and thanks!
I was fortunate to be named the Headboy of my school in upper sixth form – an honour that I treasure to this day. Yet, I also recall that I never made it to my graduation from grade thirteen – simply because I didn’t have any clothes to wear.
Well, again, let me fix that! I had the white shirt, and obviously the tie. But the only available and appropriate black pants had the hem closer to my calf, than even to my ankle — it just was not an option. I, therefore, chose not to go!
In making that choice, I also recall making a promise to myself that – when I started working – I would buy all the clothes I need. I even made myself a second promise, I had done enough washing for a lifetime – so I wasn’t going to wash them either.
It has nothing to do with pride or male chauvinism – they are simply promises that I’ve made to myself … and which I have kept!
In the first couple of years, a younger sister assisted me with my laundry. Following that, my partners from different relationships obliged. Eventually I purchased a washing machine and tried my hands at it for a while; but still prefer to have it done by others. Now, I only have to get my clothes washed once per month — yes, (bless God) there are that many. And, although I don’t do it myself, I’ve had to change some washerwomen over time, because I know when it’s not done right.
But, one thing has not changed – I still enjoy pressing! Give me a cold jug of lemonade and some music (preferably Gospel or Country & Western) and I’ll press the day away…
Welcome to my world (and my memories)!
Walk good, ’til next time …