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A Hand-Me-Down Life
Not For Sale
“But mom, must I always wear my cousin’s hand-me-downs? This is totally ridiculous! My name is Marsha, not Dixie!”
I made this comment to my mother in fourth grade around 1968. My mom and dad divorced when I was seven years old. My mother struggled to support three daughters when my dad just left and didn’t tell anyone where he was going. Finances were limited, and my mother welcomed any help with clothing, food, and shelter. Dixie, my first cousin, was my best friend. Dixie’s mom sewed most of her clothes by hand, and I reaped the benefits of her hand-me-downs.
Dixie, who was a year older and a foot taller, looked like a toothpick. By the time we were in high school, she had earned the name Twiggy after the famous English model known for her large eyes, long eyelashes, and very thin build. Dixie’s dad was my uncle. He owned a prominent business in our hometown and became a model citizen in the county because of his generosity and domineering personality. Dixie bragged about how much money her dad earned. She also informed me of the thousands of dollars her parents set up in a savings account for her and her siblings. I used to secretly wish that I had a savings account. I enjoyed visiting at Dixie’s house because they always had an abundance of snacks for the kids, and they lived in a huge magnificent home.
My mother, my sisters, and I resided in a small rental house that my uncle generously allowed us to live in rent-free. Although I was a very short child, I, too, was very thin. The clothes that Dixie gave to me fit nicely except for the length. Since Dixie was so much taller, her dresses came down past my knees. Some of them hung very close to my ankles. I remember one jumper that was in one of the boxes my aunt brought over. My aunt had embroidered Dixie’s name on the front. My mother made me wear it. I was totally embarrassed when other kids would say, “Your name is Marsha, not Dixie. Why are you wearing someone else’s dress?” Since I was very creative, I quickly came up with an insightful reply: “That’s not someone’s name! Don’t you know that we live in Texas, and Texas is in the South? Dixie stands for Dixieland!” I am not sure how many kids actually believed my story, but it made me feel much better—less rejected and less self-conscious.
Although we had our differences, we were also alike in many ways. Dixie and I grew up attending the same church, singing in the same youth choir, and attending the same school. In high school, both of us were in the band. I played the cornet and Dixie played the saxophone. Although we chose to run with different “clicks,” Dixie still acted as my “older” sister and gave me “boyfriend” advice and rules on godly living.
As adults, Dixie and I still attend the same church, still live in the same area, and believe in the same family values. Dixie now stands six foot tall and is still a “Miss Twiggy.” She can no longer give me hand-me-down clothes since I am only five foot, five inches tall and resemble “Miss Piggy!”
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