Monday, July 19, 2004


If you are an only-child, the eldest sibling, or come from an otherwise privileged background, you probably haven't had to deal with the dreaded issues of hand-me-downs.

For the uninformed, hand-me-downs are things cast off from those older than you. Or at least, luckier than you. Usually they are clothes that no longer fit. If you're lucky, they are still relatively clean. If you're lucky, they don't have an embarrassing slogan or picture. If you're lucky, they are either still in style, or else so old, they're in style again. Most of the time, however, the concepts lucky and hand-me-down don’t exist in the same sentence, because if you were truly lucky, you'd get new clothes.

Aside from clothes, the other favorite category of hand-me-downs are toys. I'm not sure if these are better or worse than clothes. After all, you don't have the issue of style. Monopoly is Monopoly, after all. The problem with hand-me-town toys is that they are SO used, they are falling apart. Hand-me-down toys suffer from two major plagues. The first is the box that has been smashed to smithereens. Most hand-me-down boxes are held together by:

a) A single strip of yellow, peeling Scotch tape (if you are a child of the 60s)
b) Layers upon layers of masking tape (if you are a child of the 70s)
c) Colored book tape (if your mom fixed the box)
d) Duct tape (if your dad fixed the box)
e) Some gum, staples and a rubber band (if a child fixed the box)

The instant ownership transferred, the tape crumbles into a pile of dust, and the box self-destructs. Your mom then declares that you can put the game in a shoe box, assuring that it will never see the light of day again.

The second plague of hand-me-down toys is the plague of missing key pieces. When I was little, we had the game Mousetrap that contained everything except whatever you needed to actually play the game. So we would play Mousetrap by building the big complicated trap thing, setting the marble in motion and watching it go through its paces. But at the end some other part didn't work right either, so we'd have to push the trap so it would fall. The end. Game over. Back into the self-destructing box.

Since TinyTuna is the only wee Tuna in the household, she is relatively spoiled in the hand-me-down department. Those few items that she's gotten she thinks are cool, partly because she doesn't have any siblings telling her otherwise.

Last summer TinyTuna got a big time hand-me-down on vacation. It was a boogie board that had been deemed two small for its two previous owners. It was hardly used, and she was thrilled -- especially since her mother had previously proclaimed that she was probably too small to deal with boogie boards quite yet. Well, she got the board; she proved her mother wrong and had a rip-roaring time in the ocean.

There was just one teensy-weensy problem. The boogie-board was black and had a picture of a Great White Shark coming out of the water, with it's 250 rows of teeth bared and ready to chomp you in half. The background was either bloody or fiery (I don't remember which), and TinyTuna took every opportunity to tell me that this scary bloody shark was just not what she had in mind.

What she had in mind -- she didn't need to tell me this, because I knew -- was something along the lines of a princess boogie board. Or a unicorn boogie board. Or a Barbie boogie board. I hoped we could achieve a compromise by having a Barbie being eaten by a shark boogie board, but no go. From the time we returned from vacation last year until the time we left for vacation this year, I was constantly reminded of the boogie board and its offensive design.

I caved, because I was tired of the yammering, and when we reached the beach this year, we went hunting for a more TinyTuna appropriate boogie board. Fortunately they were fresh out of unicorns and Barbies, so we settled on a black board with a single blue flower which we convinced her was Hawaiian and the prettiest board there. Mission accomplished. She boogied all week and I rested in peace.

The shark on the rejected boogie board spent this vacation in our garage terrorizing the storm windows. This weekend, though, it was passed on yet again, to my beloved NephewTuna, on the occasion of his fifth birthday. NephewTuna -- like TinyTuna before him -- was thrilled beyond words with the fourth-hand boogie board. And, being a BOY, he thought the shark was just fine, thank you very much. He strapped the Velcro around his wrist and ambled into the pool. He was THE -- CAPS LOCK et al. -- COOLEST kid in the world. So what if there weren't any waves to ride? Nobody else in the pool had a boogie board, so he and his board instantly reached top dog status.

NeiceTuna wanted to try. No way. NeiceTuna asked nicely. Nope. NeiceTuna threatened. Nope. Other cousins asked for a turn. Nope. Nope. Nope. NephewTuna turned to me at one point and said, "Here I come on the board, DUDE!"

Dude? Can you be a DUDE in the mitten? I'm not so sure.

Later, he told his dad (OlderBrother Tuna, for those of you playing along) that

1. He needed to boogie three times a day.
2. He was going to be a lifeguard.
3. He would tell everybody the rules like "NO DIVING!!!"
4. He needed a whistle.

He finally passed the board -- temporarily while he went to the bathroom -- to his only male cousin. That action proved to infuriate his sister no end. "Why does HE get to use the board? Why can't I use it?"

"Because he's the coolest cousin," NephewTuna replied.

Ahh, hand-me-downs. They'll get you coming, and going.


Anonymous said...

My hand-me-downs caused enough trauma to warrant therapy. As if wearing my sister's old clothes weren't bad enough, the fact that they were homemade really sucked.
Nothing like second hand polyester tunics.

Anonymous said...

I must be weird...I used to love to get a box of hand-me-downs in the mail from my out-of-state cousins! I remember a winter coat with a brown velvet collar that I loved so much I wanted to wear in August!

TVJ said...

I'm the youngest daughter of 3. Can you guess how I feel about hand-me-downs? Practically my whole apartment is hand-me-downs. *sigh*