Everything Old is New Again 

Everything Old is New Again 

By Amanda Rose Adams


Now that my daughter wears adult sized clothes I have bought her Banana Republic sweaters and snow pants at a thrift store.


During a rare car ride with my grandmother in the 1990s she shared the stories of her parents’ deaths when she was a child. It was eerie how she described her excitement about getting her father from the hospital and watching her mother gather up his clothes. When my nine-year-old grandmother grabbed her father’s heavy boots, her mother just shook her head. The clothes they were bringing were for burial, and one of Grandma’s many fully grown brothers could make use of their father’s shoes. Their mother died a few months later.

A few years after this conversation with my grandmother I was pursuing my master’s degree and working at a technology company. During a water cooler moment, I made a comment about buying used clothing at a consignment store. My work-friends were troubled that I wore used clothes. One of my friends was visibly creeped out by the idea and shivered at the thought of wearing “used” clothes. I learned to be more selective about with whom I chose to share my shopping habits and wins.

When I had my daughter in 2004, fast fashion coupled with a child who grows like a weed found me buying her new clothes most of the time. However, I was always a persistent coupon and clearance shopper and strategically bought mix-and-match colors to stay in my budget. Then she grew too tall for children’s clothes and I had to change my approach.

Now that my daughter wears adult sized clothes I have bought her Banana Republic sweaters and snow pants at a thrift store, Asics running shorts in discontinued colors for five dollars on Amazon.com, and slightly worn jeans at consignment shops. We also buy at overstock stores like TJ Maxx where my daughter spent her own money to buy herself a ten dollar dress for her first day of middle school and bragged about the bargain to our hair stylist.

When I was my daughter’s age I wore my brother’s used shoes. In fact most of my clothes were from garage sales or hand-me-downs from a family friend. The rest were hand made by my mother or bought on lay-away at K-mart. Unlike my parents who were raising four kids, I only have two. My son couldn’t give two figs about clothes and usually wears the first thing he can grab out of his closet, whether it matches his pants or not. My daughter is far more interested in expressing herself through her hairstyle and clothing choices. But she is also open to the creativity and flexibility second-hand clothing allows.

When I took her sized 5 ice skates to sell at the consignment store, my daughter looked a little sad, but I reminded her that she now wears a 7.5 and that she could have all the store credit for those skates, and she perked right up. Our community consignment stores are all locally owned. Our community thrift store benefit local charities with the proceeds they make from their sales, and by buying chain store clothes on a secondary market we are buying local, and that’s important to me.

My kids don’t wear used shoes, socks, underwear, or pajamas. When I was buying snow pants at the thrift store, I looked at used snow boots and decided that I could afford to buy my kids shoes that fit their own feet. I will splurge on shoes and bras because nothing makes a person more uncomfortable in their skin than ill-fitting undergarments or shoes. The rest can be washed in hot water with vinegar and given a new life.

Financially, I can afford to buy my daughter expensive clothes, but I don’t want to start that habit. I can’t make the emotional leap. Between my great-grandfather buried in his bare feet, my favorite Levi’s 501 jeans that came from a garage sale with a $5 bill in the coin pocket that I wore throughout middle school, and the hand pieced quilt I made from an old flannel jacket I shared with my father in high school as a form of grieving his death, clothing is more to me than a consumable possession. I am quick to pass on clothing we no longer need and rarely keep a sentimental piece. My approach to clothing, and what I hope I’m passing on to my children, is that while we live in a culture of conspicuous consumption, we have choices and the power to decide for ourselves what matters and how we express that.

Amanda Rose Adams is contributing blogger for Brain, Child, the author of Heart Warriors, A Family Faces Congenital Heart Disease, and her work has been featured in the New York Times Motherlode Blog, The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Bioethics and various literary journals. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaroseadams or visit her blog at www.amandaroseadams.com.

Image: gettyimages.com



By Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly


Times being tough is an understatement, but how I manage has gone from a question, to a state of panic, to an action. It is what we do. Manage.


The first time my daughter received hand-me-downs, I washed them, pressed them and voila, they were like new. Friends with older daughters were eager to give away the clothing they had collected over the years, and my being in an unexpected position of need both economically and as a first time parent, I was happy to have them.

I was raised middle to upper middle class in Detroit. Instruction and private lessons in an array of classical art forms (violin, dressage, flute and ballet) turned me into the artist I am today, but art alone doesn’t automatically surrender a comfortable living. With multiple graduate degrees in tow, Sallie Mae has me on speed dial and every month I feel as if I rob Peter to pay all 12 Apostles. Times being tough is an understatement, but how I manage has gone from a question, to a state of panic, to an action. It is what we do. Manage.

It hasn’t always been like this, but since my entire child rearing experience has taken place during a time of economic upheaval in our household, I often find my parenting stifled. I am unable to be the mother I want to be 100% of the time because of the looming financial responsibilities dampening my daily situation. The embarrassment of being a millennial not financially secure and overwhelmed with debt is suffocating as my Facebook news feed overflows with the happiness of other people’s lives. We know not to compare, try not to compare, but on some level the comparisons are always there.

There are times I feel unsettled, as if my life never “began”—not that I didn’t want to be a mother, but what have I experienced that I could teach another person? What can I give a child when I have “childlike” sensibilities?

I had to sink or swim with my immersion into parenthood; I thought I’d be in a far better economic situation. In 2013, about a year after joining what felt like a natural position as “mama” and naturally never being afraid to try new things, I began to explore new ways to make money, especially from home. It was then that I joined a pyramid scheme after googling “How to make money from home.” It was a rather desperate time as I struggled to build a photography business to make ends meet. A few months later I laughed about the whole crazy thing, because after nearly 10 years at Gap and opening hundreds of credit card accounts, I was terrible at offering Motor Club memberships to people, no matter how wonderful it appeared. The few friends and family I told about my “new venture” was through a mass of laughter and embarrassment because I couldn’t believe I had fallen so low. I made a total of $80, and suspended selling and marketing activity after two months.

My patience is often thinner than it should be as I get through a 7-10 hour period with two children—a baby and a toddler—while my husband is at work. The moments where I want to sit and bask in their development: new sounds, new words, and an understanding of concepts are often spoiled by the realities of unpaid bills or dreams deferred.

I’m a writer. I have an MFA in Playwriting, and even more, I am an Obie award winning Theatre Producer—an award I won with the Producing collective Harlem9, 1 week before giving birth on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building in Harlem. While my career accomplishments exist, there still lives an anxiety because of financial instability. A life in the arts with children is more than economically unpredictable. Most theatres are not-for-profits and therefore do not have the funds to allocate towards childcare, although many parents are beginning to fight for that right. With a spouse not from the arts world, my main struggle has been justifying that my creative work at all hours of the night is part of a standard family model.

I am imprisoned by my lack of financial freedom. In the deepest moments of my frustration, I coddle less and teach my children to get back up “after a fall” more. I have walked out of a room with a crying child in order to finish something that may never get done. While I want to sit and cuddle for hours, time is sometimes money, and there is never enough of either.

Parenting without financial comforts or stability does not allow me to approach parenting with ease. I often feel there is something I am not doing if I cannot focus on my children’s education or other social opportunities because I am overwhelmed with ways to make money to afford those experiences.

Between attempting to be supermom and super-wife, I am drowning in a mound of half completed tasks, feeling less than accomplished in the home.

I worry for the social lives of my children and find as many free opportunities for classes at local bookstores or concert halls. Recently, I signed up for IDNYC as a way to take the children to multiple cultural institutions free of charge or at a discounted rate. In this city that seems to cater to the rich and discard the poor with every passing day, I often wonder, would we be happy elsewhere?

When my children are asleep, I take the opportunity to write—in my notebook… on the subway… I write for that one job, the one break that could mean a more focused and attentive mother, changing our status, removing the economic burden. No longer managing or thriving, surviving … but being.

Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly is a writer, OBIE Award winning theatre producer and newly Licensed Real Estate Salesperson. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Howlround.com. A mother of two, she lives in Harlem with her family. Follow her on Twitter/ Instagram/ Facebook @garliacornelia www.garliacornelia.com.

Photo: gettyimages