I was born in the Year of the Rat, and in Western metaphors, rats like to hoard. While I’d prefer a label that makes me sound more thrifty and resourceful, I do admit a tendency to hold on to out-of-use things.
In the US, where I had access to a number of closets, an attic, and a dry basement, I rarely had to choose between storage and disposal. Anything I ever wanted to keep, but not be in the way of our living area, I could put in a plastic box, label it and add it to a stack out of sight.
After living in China for the past six years, I’ve had to manage my stores much more carefully. The apartments we have rented have few or no closets, making long-term storage a challenge. Instead, I have found ways to get rid of stuff without feeling wasteful. For household items, like a wok I hated after only a few weeks, neighborhood recyclers have come to my rescue. The kids’ outgrown clothing end up at the local charity Roundabout. And my maternity clothes, which were last worn four years ago, are still with us.
I’m not sure of the wisdom behind holding onto my maternity clothes. I’m loathe to proclaim we are done having babies, but I may need to face some basic biology. Late this year, I will be turning an age that ends in a zero, and since I have admitted to being born in a rat year, everyone can calculate that doesn’t mean 30 or 50. My personal opinion, shared by my husband, is that I am not too old to welcome more children into our family, but our beliefs don’t seem to be the deciding factor.
There have been signs that I am nearing the end of child-bearing years. My schoolmates’ Facebook updates have lately been filled with pictures of their children’s proms, graduations, and engagements. More often than not, birth announcements are about their grandchildren now. I never considered how quickly I was approaching grandparent age myself.
Perhaps I should have taken it to heart when I was walking in Changping with my 4- and 8-year-old children and unmarried 22-year-old step-daughter. Several people referred to my step-daughter as the mama of our group, and me as the nainai. THE GRANDMOTHER? Granted, I expect to look older than my step-daughter, but still, grandmother?!
Even so, I still hang on to those maternity clothes in what little closet space I have. They are merely wardrobe basics – shirts, skirts, and pants – all cut for the expectant figure. Theoretically, these are replaceable, though not likely in China. Not only does my size restrict where I shop in China, but also my style. I prefer the clothes I wear through pregnancy to look like my normal attire. In the local maternity departments, I see corduroy overalls and giant teddy bear appliqués, the likes of which aren’t found in my everyday wear.
Among my maternity clothes, too, are what have to be my favorite blue jeans ever. What American woman casually discards her favorite jeans? Typically, these are her “skinny jeans,” a pair that fit her at her happiest weight. For me, though, it has to be my maternity jeans. No other pair of jeans in my life have fit so well for so many years, albeit only for six-month stretches at a time.
I may have a serious case of denial, but I’m not ready to admit that these favorite jeans and my other maternity clothes might need to go. I think I’ll hold on a little longer, just in case.
This article is excerpted from beijingkids October 2012 issue. View it in PDF form here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where you can pick up your free copy.