For Children

Rami Sigal

Lifecycle of My Clothes

5th-6th Grade Prose Winner

My parents are always saying: "kids are so expensive." While summer camp, fencing lessons, food, and family trips are certainly the bulk of the reason for our pricetag, clothes also rank high on the list of expenses. As the oldest kids in our extended family, my sister Tali and I rarely receive hand-me-downs, so my parents make semi-annual clothes shopping expeditions, dragging Tali and me along.

My father stays up late after we stock up on a new summer or winter wardrobe, ironing nametags into each new clothing item. A nametag goes into everything we wear—every sock, every jacket, every sweatshirt. When Tali and I wake up in the morning, the piles of clothes have transformed our living room into our own version of Old Navy. The tags include our names, and my father's cell phone number. When we were babies, my parents ironed on the nametags in case we got lost. Now, the nametags are used in case the clothes get lost.

When my clothes get too small, my kindergarten cousins Noah, Sam and Eli are sometimes the beneficiaries. My sister's clothes usually go to friends, as we don’t have any younger girl cousins. My parents keep a bag of clothes we have outgrown in their bedroom, waiting to find a new home. My mom starts off with a small bag, and as we grow, the bag grows, and begins to overflow.

Sometimes, my father gets a phone call: "Rami left his raincoat at the playground."

“Which playground?" my father asks.

"The one by the Liberty Bell."

My dad laughs when he realizes the raincoat isn't even in Manhattan, and it doesn't belong to us anymore. I wonder who was wearing the raincoat last. I wonder about what someone was doing at the playground on a rainy day anyway.

I think about my last two raincoats. Maybe it was my old orange raincoat I wore two rainy summers ago at camp almost every day. That was the one with dirt on both the sleeves, and gray and brown paint on the back from painting the set for the Cinderella play. Maybe my mom threw that raincoat away because of the splattered paint. Or maybe the raincoat found at the playground was the older blue one with the ladder-latch zipper I had worn only once before a friend borrowed it and never returned it.

One of my parents’ friends donates our clothes when her kids outgrow them to friends in Israel. Right now there is a kid walking around in the Middle East with a pair of shorts with the name "Rami Sigal" ironed onto the inside. I think about the boy who is wearing my old clothes, and wonder what he might be playing, eating, and reading.

My clothes are part of my memories and identity—my Mets jersey I wore to my first baseball game with my dad, my field day t-shirt when I helped my team win Capture the Flag, and my plaid shorts I wore when I learned to ride a bike. When I wore those clothes I was comfortable, I could be me—happy, friendly, and funny. My friends and family would all recognize me at a distance in my clothing.

My curiosity continues. I wonder if the Israeli boy even knows what “Mets” means when he wears that jersey. My clothes are getting a second or third life, and these kids are making their own memories. Maybe when they hand the clothes down again, more memories will be made. I hope the kids who wear my old clothes feel the good memories within them.