Holding Back Tears


My calf muscle aches as I bend over yet another trash bag that is over half full of gently used children’s clothing. All through the morning I picked through, sifted and made piles of clothes. In excellent condition, good condition and definitely well-used ones. They went into different bags. Some on FB marketplace to find others who could use them, some to goodwill and the rest in the trash.

As I processed the clothes, I was hit with waves of regret. Regret at buying so many clothes. Regrets at being mindlessly consumerist. Regret at mostly not getting full use of what I consider perfectly good clothes not worn more than once. Eight pairs of jeans all in similar sizes. What was I thinking?

The closets look bare. What little clothes are left are stacked in neat piles. I make note of things that need replenishing and when the last of the clothes have been bagged, lie down on my bed for a 20-minute power nap before my next chore. Thoughts meander back in time to my childhood. I remember specific clothes. Sheer printed chiffon frocks I wore with petticoats inside. Thick green paavadais with the paisley pattern all through it. A light copper sulfate blue salwar kameez in fifth grade from Hyderabad. A yellow frock churidar in seventh grade. A black slinky number that was more of an optical illusion than a salwar kameez.

Green, brown, earthy tones all through college. A specific navy blue and cream cotton suit that saw itself fade by the time I graduated. Crepe silk and nonbreathable material that smelled pungently of me after multiple uses. I could count the number of clothes I had at any point in time. All through my life, I have never owned more than three pairs of sandals or shoes.

I rise from the bed and sort through clothes from the time I discovered I was pregnant with laddu. Ammu and Pattu were a little over four. Their clothes that I had bagged to give away stayed. For when the next child would need it. Yesterday, I dug out that bag and emotion washed over me at all the shorts, leggings, pants and tees I had saved for this last child of mine. Butterflies, unicorns, pinks, and purples shimmered through my tears.

Each year this ritual of sorting, bagging, and pruning is cathartic. It gives me a chance to bid good bye to the year gone by. It offers me a chance to relive my children all over again, to touch those fleeting moments before they pop like a bubble. One day, even this will be taken from me and I will let the tears fall then.

7 thoughts on “Holding Back Tears

  1. The pang you feel resonates with me. I feel it every single time I sort clothes. The heaviness, the emptiness, the tenderness, for all the days that have gone by, knowing that we will not get them back. Most days I can be practical about my kids growing up and I can see beauty in what’s ahead. But there are times like when sorting clothes, during the annual physical or a trip to the salon.. that painfully remind me that life is wheeling by. It’s not as sad as it sounds but those few moments are heavily laden with myriad emotions.

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