The summer clothes changeover used to last almost a week in our house. Children grew faster and attention spans were shorter then. I would start, some time before the May bank holiday, by taking down all the plastic bags of summer clothes from the top of the wardrobes and spilling their colourful contents all over the bedroom floors. Every year, without fail, the sight of all these little shorts and T-shirts would draw a collective ‘ooh’ from their expectant owners. Winter clothes never get the same reaction. Their colours are too dull and, well, it never seemed as though it had been very long since we last saw them.
But summer clothes suggest holidays and ice-cream and suntans and swimming pools. They also, for years, were a reliable yardstick of just how much the children had grown. The Small Girl, who never stretched very far at all, had the consolation of several seasons in her favourite clothes and the promise that, one day, she would eventually fit into the handme-downs gifted from my best friend’s bigger, older daughter. The Boy grew at an astonishing rate but it never really mattered because very, very few of his clothes survived a single summer. If there was a chocolate stain to be got on a T-shirt, it would get on his. If shorts were to tear, they would be his shorts. Most summers, he would get kitted out in new clothes from head to toe, though it never stopped him oohing alongside his neater, less stretchy sisters.
The Youngest fared best of all, of course. Her own lovely little clothes usually fitted for a couple of years and her sister’s cast- offs were always welcomed with a delighted ‘I was hoping this might fit me this year!’. But for all the festiveness of the changeover, it was literally impossible to persuade three little people to try on an endless array of colourful clothes in a single session. On a good run, you might get two of them into three outfits, before they’d start moaning or weeping or simply wander off, half- dressed. And so, the whole process would last anything up to a week, with me dressing them through stealth and subterfuge across the days. ‘Just pop this on before you put on your jimmies’ was a popular one. ‘When you’re changing for training, just throw
A girl just shy of 16 doesn’t ooh at very much, least of all a modest collection of summer clothes that are so last year
on those shorts for a minute’ occasionally worked. Eventually, the piles of clothes on the floor would diminish and the bags, re-packed with the winter clothes, would be stashed away again. It was summer. Official.
This year, it took about an hour. An hour. Depressingly, this is the first year I can recall in which I didn’t have to make an emergency sortie into the summer bags ahead of the official changeover; if anything, there was a sense of grimly clinging onto the winter wardrobe for fear of optimism-induced hypothermia. Still, May is May and so the summer bags were dragged down from their hibernation. And.
And a girl who is a couple of weeks short of 16 tends not to ooh at very much at all, least of all a modest collection of clothes that are
so last year. So I put her bag in her room, unexamined, and asked her to go through it and give me back anything she didn’t want. An hour later, the bag was back in my room. As far as I can tell, it is untouched.
The Boy’s bag contained four pair of shorts, none of which, I was fairly sure, would fit him. And since he has the patience of a gnat, I didn’t particularly want to hang around to find out, and so his bag was also put into his bedroom with similar instructions. Now his, I am absolutely certain, has not been touched, because it is still in exactly the same spot on his floor where I left it.
Which only left The Youngest. And for her, I spilled out two large bags, all over my bed, and she oohed and she aahed and, because she is no longer distracted by bright and shiny things, she tried them all on, right there. And an hour later, it was summer.
The summer clothes changeover used to be really hard work. Now it’s a doddle. An hour after it started, I was left alone in my bedroom, surrounded by bags that no longer have any place or evoke any real sentiment in three previously small lives. All that remained was for me to do my own clothes. I spilled them out on my bed and summoned a small ‘ooh’. But there was nobody there to hear it.