The grace of old clothes

The grace of old clothes

Recently I was reading about a new company that rents clothes online. You order it, wear it as long as you like and then return it. Now  I can see the value if you’ve got a fancy ball to go to (or in the immortal words of Archie Campbell’s Rindercella, “a bancy fall”) and you’re not the kind who ordinarily does such things. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a dress to be worn once?

But the owner was positioning the company for ordinary clothes as well. She used the example of a winter coat. “Don’t we just rent that?” she said. After all, we wear it for six months and then put it back in the back of the closet. (For those of us in the south those numbers are adjusted accordingly.)

I thought about my camel colored pea coat, a bargain I found several years ago, on sale and inexplicably in my petite size (even the sleeves fit – a rarity for me.) When I slip it on the soft wool feels like a hug. It’s familiar. We’ve bonded through the miles we’ve traveled together on the barely-cool-enough-for-it days of fall to the bundled up days of winter.

I thought about other clothes in my closet… the clothes that  I can date because my mother gave them to me and it’s been more than a few years since she cruised a Talbot’s store. The clothes that felt just right form the very first day and that are a part of my weekly rotation. The clothes that are a cause for celebration when I can fit into them and wear them.

I think about the clothes now worn with frayed edges and bald spots. Some are passed along to the yard work/painting drawer. And some are put out of their misery – or at least put out in the trash, too far gone for Goodwill.

Perhaps such musings are nothing more than the first world nostalgia of someone entitled enough to have more than a few outfits in my closet, who has the luxury of switching from summer to winter closets. But it made me think of deeper things.

It’s tempting to be dazzled by what’s shiny and new. It’s what this clothing rental business is counting on. After all, aren’t you getting the new iPhone? But there’s something to be said for the connections that come through the years. I enjoy making new friends, but as the Girl Scout song says, not at the expense of the old.

Old clothes. Old pets. Old friends. They may be a bit worn but what a treasure it is to share the miles with them.

So long, Rosie

Rosie, 1995

The first time I met her, I hated her. I was waiting at the veterinarian’s office with my very sick cat, Sam, who was about to be euthanized. Rosie and her sister were tiny kittens playing in a cage in the corner, up for adoption. They’d been abandoned outside of a KMart. Only a few days old, some kind soul rescued them and nurtured them up to adoption age. They were tiny. And cute. And so abundantly alive.  I resented it their liveliness on the day Sam’s life would end. Especially since Rosie was a brown tabby, just like Sam.

That was on a Friday. By Monday  I was calling the vet to see if the kittens were still available. That’s how Maxie and Rosie came to live with me.

Rosie was destined to be a perpetual second banana. With Maxie, there was no doubt who the alpha cat was. Maxie was sweet and loving but in a curmudgeonly sort of way. She had the mouth of a sailor and little patience. Rosie just stayed back and let everything roll off of her. Several years later when  I rescued a stray kitten who’d wandered into my yard, Maxie was all bluster. Rosie let the kitten play around her and play at her until her long-suffering soul had enough and she gave the kitten one swipe of the paw. That was all and that was enough.

In her old age she had to suffer the indignity of dogs, particularly Oakley who liked to check on her by sticking her entire long nose up under Rosie’s body. Rosie gave an irritated meow, but otherwise took it in stride. When Maxie developed a fast growing malignant tumor, I took Rosie with me to the vet. Her carrier on the table, she watched carefully and solemnly as her sister slipped away. She seemed to take it in and never looked for Max or asked about her again.

For over three years Rosie was a diabetic. She quickly adapted to this new routine of twice daily insulin injections, only complaining when I got sloppy and careless with her shot. One day I came home from a trip and found her in a coma. The emergency vets performed a miracle in getting her back from the threshold of death’s door but she lost a good portion of her eyesight. She never complained and it never seemed to bother her. She just kept on keeping on.

Maxie and Rosie

The one place in which she took a backseat to no one was her hunting. One summer in our old house I kept count of how many voles she’d killed (voles look like moles but are about the size of mice.) At least sixteen voles bit the dust that summer. Each time she’d proudly leave her gift at the front door. Occasionally I’d catch Max picking up the dead vole and proudly bringing it around again, as if she’d killed it.

I came home last night and prepared for bed. When I was ready to give Rosie her nightly shot, she wasn’t in her bed. I finally found her in another room, peaceful and still. She lived to be seventeen.

My pastor tells me that the one question he gets asked more than any other is if our pets will be with us in heaven. I do not have the definitive answer, but  I cannot imagine anywhere being all that heavenly if our four-legged (and two-winged!) family members are not allowed to join us.

If we are open, we may learn many lessons from our pets. Oakley teaches me that you can be fierce and protective and loving at the same time. Ralphie teaches me about all out joy. Maxie taught me about asking for what you need (okay, demanding.) And Rosie taught me that it is indeed possible to have a Buddha cat – not holding on to anything, being in the moment, finding contentment.

So long, Rosie.

And thanks.