Eli walked into his bedroom and was only a little surprised to find his mom sitting on the floor in front of his dresser. He often saw his mom there when she was putting away clean clothes. But today, she was taking the clothes out of his dresser, which was the surprising part.
“Hi buddy.” Mom didn’t look away from her work, grabbing a shirt, unfolding it and holding it in front of her, refolding it and putting it into a pile on the floor with other shirts.
Eli walked over to the pile and grabbed the shirt Mom had just folded and opened it up again. “That’s my blue stripey shirt,” he said. “Why are you taking it out of the drawer?”
“It’s too small for you, pal,” Mom said, already moving on to look at another shirt.
“So?” Eli was holding the shirt protectively against his body now.
“So since you can’t wear it anymore, we’re going to donate it so another kid can wear it and enjoy it.”
“But I like it,” Eli pouted, turning his back to Mom now, hoping she wouldn’t see he was holding onto the shirt.
“I know, Eli, that’s a good shirt. You really liked wearing it, huh?”
Eli turned around and nodded, the pout still fixed firmly on his face. Mom gave a gently smile and brushed Eli’s soft brown hair to one side on his forehead, just the way he liked.
“You know what I do when I’m deciding to donate something?” Mom asked Eli. Eli just shook his head. Still not ready to admit in any way that he would be donating this shirt. “I like to imagine the next person who will wear that shirt and think about all the cool things they might do while they’re wearing it.”
This got Eli interested and he softened to the idea. A little. “Like what?”
“Well, like your blue stripey shirt,” Mom said. “You wore that when you were five, right?”
“I’m six now,” Eli said, straightening up and a smile creeping onto his face.
“That’s right, you’re six now. But you wore that shirt when you were five. So imagine a different five year old who is smaller than you and might really like a blue stripey shirt. Can you picture them in your mind?”
“Mmhmm,” Eli said. “They might like superheroes, like me.”
“They might,” Mom agreed.
“And maybe they would wear this shirt and pretend to be a special superhero called the Blue Blur!” Eli had a clear picture of this other boy in his mind. Could have described everything about him, if Mom asked.
“Oooo, the Blue Blur. What’s his power?” Mom asked.
“He’s super fast,” Eli said, seriously.
“Of course,” Mom said, returning the serious tone.
They were quiet for a moment and Mom when back to taking shirts out of Eli’s dresser, one at a time. Sometimes she held them up in the air in front of Eli as a rough measurement.
Mom grabbed a plaid button down shirt that Eli had worn for picture day.
“That’s for Duke,” Eli said confidently.
“Duke?” Mom asked. “Is that another superhero?”
“No, Mom. Duke,” Eli looked pleadingly at his mom, urging her mind to sync with his. When Mom shook her head and gave an exaggerated shoulder shrug, Eli clued her in. “Mrs. Murphy’s dog. Duke,” Eli said.
“Oh!” Mom gave a bit of a giggle but stopped herself when she saw Eli was serious. “Oh. You want to give that to Duke?”
“Yep. Can’t you just picture him wearing it? He’d be like a lumberjack dog. He could work in the forest. But maybe he’d be the opposite of a lumberjack, actually. Because I think he wouldn’t want to cut down the trees. So he would protect the trees to make sure the forest animals all have a place to live.”
“Umm… ok.” Mom said, and went back to unfolding and folding clothes, putting them into piles.
“So I’ll put this one over here so I can give it to Duke,” Eli said, sounding like a man with a plan.
“Well, actually,” Mom started, but then figured, why not? She could text Lara Murphy in advance and let her know the scoop. “Ok, Eli. That’s very kind of you. We can take it over later today.”
Eli was in the full spirit of the activity now and looked at the piles in front of his little sister Marney’s dresser. He grabbed a pink onesie with script writing on it and held it up for his mom.
“Mom? What does this say?”
Mom turned her head quickly. “ It says, ‘Daddy’s girl’.”
“That’s right. I remember this one,” Eli said. “This is too little for Marley now.”
“Yep. Those are the piles of her clothes that we’re going to donate. So another little girl can use that onesie, right?”
“No?” Mom asked.
“No. I think this is for a penguin. A little girl emperor penguin,” Eli said.
“Ok…” Mom said, not sure where this one was going or how in the world she’d find a way to get this onesie to a penguin.
“Kidding!” Eli said, and Mom exhaled. “But that’s funny right?” Eli paused, waiting for his mom to understand. Again, she didn’t catch on so Eli had to fill her in. “Because remember how dad emperor penguins are the ones that carry the eggs around? So the baby girl penguin would know her dad before her mom. A daddy’s girl!”
Eli was so proud of himself. His mom was too, really. “That is funny, Eli. Good job remembering that from the penguin movie we watched.”
Mom folded the shirt in her hands and went to put it into the donate pile.
“Mom, wait,” Eli said, grabbing the shirt. “That’s my shirt that grandma and grandpa got for me when they went on vacation.”
“I know, buddy. It’s too small for you now though.”
“I know,” Eli said, giving the shirt a hug and then holding it up in front of himself, the way his mom had been doing to check the size of each shirt. “But you know who else is smaller than me?”
Mom just smiled gently at Eli, preparing herself for whatever he might say.
“Marley.” Mom’s smile grew, becoming more genuine as Eli continued. “I think Marley would really like this shirt when she’s a little bigger. And I think grandma and grandpa would like to see her wearing it. Can’t we just save it for a little while longer? Until she can wear it?”
“Absolutely,” Mom said, holding her arms open and welcoming Eli in for a big hug.