Knowing when it's time to let go of the old and embrace the new
Jenny Schlecht bids farewell to the insulated coveralls she'd worn since childhood.
I have a tendency to hold onto things longer than makes sense. If it still fits or still does its job, I am loathe to replace it, even when something new would be a marked improvement. Call it cheap or call it thrifty — it fits me, either way.
I got a pair of insulated Carhartt bibs sometime in my adolescence. I distinctly remember how they were a crisp light brown color — you know the one: the color of coveralls before they've been worn repeatedly in the elements and washed repeatedly to clean off whatever "elements" clung to them. I remember thinking how cool it would be for them to get to be like my Dad's — weathered and faded to a light tan and broken in until they were no longer stiff. I think I probably assumed I'd grow out of the children's extra larges before that happened.
But I never did. Decades passed.
Since I'm not outside working every day, they have remained in remarkably good shape, more than 25 years after I got them. They are faded now to that soft tan I remember Dad's being. The zippers all still work. There are no significant rips or tears. The only real wear is at the bottoms of the legs that drag on the ground. Yes, even children's extra larges are a little long for me.
And since they still served their purpose — keeping me warm and relatively clean in the winter — I kept them. But while I might still be the same height as an extra large child and might act like one on occasion, I am not one.
I ignored the little inconveniences that came with wearing a product made for someone who has not lived nearly four decades on this planet and birthed two children. They still did their job, so they still were good enough.
This fall, I spent a good portion of every Saturday for a month helping my husband work calves. The first week was warm enough that I wore jeans and a sweatshirt. But the next week I found myself in my old trusty coveralls.
Over and over again, I trudged outside to bring in groups of calves, then came back inside and climbed up onto the catwalk that allows me to see over our crowding tub. Whereas the week prior I could nimbly hop anywhere I needed to be, with my coveralls I felt a constant pull at my knees and hips.
That night, I was sore and tired, and I resolved to do what I should have done a long time ago: Find coveralls made for an adult.
That was easier said than done. I may no longer be an extra large child, but I'm still barely a small adult. Finally, I stopped at the right farm store and found a pair of Key men's medium short coveralls. They are a bit big and boxy — and they certainly still will drag a few centimeters on the ground. But I can move in them without hurting myself and can pile many layers underneath. They are a deep black, so I have no idea what they'll fade into. But I look forward to breaking them in. Maybe they'll give me a quarter century or more of use, too.
And the old coveralls? They've gone to good use. My 10-year-old daughter — four or so inches shorter than me and a good deal smaller — begged to wear them. A little shortening of the straps, and they were nearly perfect. She's not yet an extra large child, but they'll work for her until she is.
Will she still be wearing them when she's 38, with kids of her own? I doubt it. She likely has more sense than that. But they may be passed down to her little sister and then maybe passed to other kids down the line. Until they're no good, we'll find a use for them.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com or 701-595-0425.