Since Big & Little were born (yes, I'm getting tired of Thing 1 & 2 - tired of the nicknames, not the kids) I have probably spent less than $500 on clothing which is not bad if you consider that they have racked up close to 6 years of living between them. We have been showered in hand me downs from day 1 and I feel so fortunate. I love hand-me-downs and it's not just because I am cheap (I am) or because I hate shopping (I do). When I put a hand-me-down shirt on Big that I know has been worn by at least 3 other pre-schoolers and I see the tiny holes around the cuffs and the thinness of the fabric around the elbows and the tiny, permanent brown stain which I tell myself is chocolate though truthfully I have no idea, it makes me inexplicably happy. I think of all the little people who wore this shirt and wore in the holes while they played and loved the fabric down to its threads and blissfully ate chocolate (hopefully) and it is as if their happy memories, their hours of play, their story times have been imbued into the garment. So yes, for reasons practical, economic and romantic, I adore Big & Little's hand-me-down wardrobes.
This year however there was no denying that Big would need a winter snowsuit. We could not get away with squeezing her back into her 3T winter attire and surprisingly when I went to the carefully labelled storage containers in the basement, none of the 4T-5T containers held winter gear. It is the first time there has been a hole in our supply chain. So off we went to Mountain Equipment Coop where every good Canadian shops for outdoorsy stuff. I found the perfect snowsuit for Big. It cost a shocking amount - don't get me wrong, I don't mind paying for Big to stay warm all winter but when you are used to "free", $90 comes as a bit of a shock. I was all set to leave, true to my normal "get in, get the thing, get out" commando style of shipping when the 18 month snowsuits caught my eye. Little's need for winter clothing is borderline. We have, of course, all of Big's old stuff but as she and Big are not season-locked when it comes to season-specific items, it is not always a perfect match. For sure though, I could have either had her swimming all winter in Big's 2T stuff or else layered her with several pieces that, albeit awkward, would have kept her warm all winter. So technically Little did not require a snowsuit and since the PPC "Law of Acquisition" is generally "Don't do it!!", I was ready to walk away. Yet something made me linger, tracing the inevitably cute snowsuit with one finger. I put my hand inside to gage how closely it resembled the feel of a sleeping bag and stumbled across the most amazing feature. A name-tag... but not just a name-tag. A name-tag with four distinct spaces for four different children and then, best of all, underneath each a little phrase. For child # 1 "I wonder where this will travel to", child #2 "Good thing she grew quickly, I was getting cold", child #3 "Grew like a bad weed she did" and child #4 "At last! It's my turn."
I stood there thinking about it. Thinking about how we would definitely hand this down, to my cousin who recently had triplets and from there who knows. Thinking about the parents who would carefully pen their child's name in it. Thinking of all the snowballs that would get made, all the tobogganing that would happen, all the times a parent would do up this snowsuit only to be told that its occupant had to pee, all the snow angels. All the parents, grandparents, friends who would watch their snowsuit-laden toddler trundling along, a cheerful cherry red blob against a sullen winter day. I thought about how by the time the fourth child received it, Little would not be little, about how the fourth child probably had not even been born yet and I just started bawling in the store. And to my shock, I bought it. I bought the unnecessary $90 snowsuit because of the 50 cent name-tag sewn into it, because of the way that 50 cent name-tag had made me feel.
It's a great marketing lesson. It really is true that if you can imagine your consumer and connect with them in some way, they will buy your stuff. I have never had this feeling before... but there was no way I was NOT going to buy that snowsuit. And I cried in the car as I told hubby about it, sipping our Tim Horton's coffee while Big & Little snoozed in their car seats in the back. I cried the next day (to my horror) as I told my colleague about the experience at our communal coffee machine (I was trying to draw parallels to the product we develop together but since our product is a data acquisition software for the life sciences, neither of us could think of one so it was a pretty unproductive conversation but at least it made us both uncomfortable!). And I am sure I will cry the first time I wrestle it onto Little so that she can go out and make her snowangels.