Title: Hand Me Downs (Thanks to Ermintrude for the idea)
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only. Please do not redistribute or reproduce this story without my permission.
Summary – It isn't easy being a kid...Another episode in the Amanda and Jamie series
Timeline – season 3
Rating – general
"Aww, Mom, do I have to?"
"I'm sorry Jamie but yes, you do."
"It's not fair. Phillip always gets all the new stuff and I have to wear the stupid old clothes."
"Now Jamie, you know that's not always true."
"Yeah, right. New underwear and socks. Whoopee." Jamie flopped down on his bed surrounded by piles of shirts and pants that no longer fit his brother.
It was almost time to go back to school and Amanda was sorting through the dressers and closets, trying to determine what items didn't fit and really needed replacing. Fortunately, from her point of view, Jamie was just a size or two smaller than his brother and items that Phillip could no longer wear fit the younger boy perfectly.
Jamie, however, had the totally opposite point of view. Wearing his brother's hand-me-downs was a fate worse than death in his eyes. It hadn't always been so. When he was younger, he'd worshipped his older brother and felt proud to wear something that Phillip had worn. Unfortunately, he'd long since outgrown that phase and now Amanda faced the unenviable task of explaining to him yet again, why he couldn't have all new clothes when his brother did.
"Jamie, you know money is tight. There's the mortgage on the house, the car needs new tires and who knows how many more times I can convince the washer to keep going. I just can't afford to buy both you and Phillip new clothes especially when some of these will still fit you. Look at this shirt. It's barely been worn..."
"Yeah – because it's dorky and Phillip refused to wear it."
"It isn't dorky. It's just a plain white shirt. And look at these jeans. There's nothing wrong with them."
"But nobody's wearing that brand this year and they're dark blue. Faded jeans are in right now."
"Well...I'll can run them through a hot water wash and hang them out in the sun. That should fade them a bit." Amanda tried to be conciliatory.
Jamie just stared at her as if he couldn't believe what he'd just heard. "It's still not the same."
Trying one more time, Amanda put on a bright smile and rifled through the pile of Phillip's discarded clothing looking for something to brighten her younger son's spirits. Finding a jersey with a sports team logo, she held it up. "Look at this one. It's one of your favourite teams, it's almost like new and I know it isn't dorky because Phillip told me he wants to buy another one."
Jamie lunged out of the bed and grabbed the jersey from his mother. "But look at this. Bozo put a hole in the sleeve right here." Jamie poked his finger through the opening and wagged it at his mother.
"Oh, I didn't see that. But don't worry, Grandma or I can just stitch it up or maybe put a tiny patch on it..."
Jamie threw the offending shirt on the ground, his face clouded with anger. "No! I don't want old stuff with patches. If Phillip gets to have new things, then I should too."
"He's only getting a few shirts and pants, not a whole wardrobe." Amanda tried to remain calm and reasonable but could feel her patience wearing thin. It wasn't as if she enjoyed denying her son.
"But it's still new! Just once, I'd like to start school without kids reminding me that I'm wearing my brother's stuff, that I'm Phillip's 'little brother.' I'm tired of being second all the time. I'm tired of getting picked on all the time." Jamie's voice rose, his anger spilling into the room and creating a chasm between him and his mother.
Silence filled the room as she stared at her son, momentarily speechless. Jamie had never yelled at her before; they'd always been so close... She took in his angry face and flashing eyes. His fists were clenched and she realized that this was about more than hand-me-down clothes. "Jamie, who's picking on you?" She asked quietly.
"No one," he mumbled. "Just some stupid kids." Suddenly all his anger and bravado disappeared and he stared at the carpet, scuffing it with his toe.
"What stupid kids? I'll talk to their parents...."
"No! Don't do that!" He looked up at her briefly, obviously horrified at the thought of her interference. "You'll just make it worse."
Amanda stared at his downcast face, her heart aching. How could anyone pick on Jamie? He was such a sweet, sensitive boy. Slowly she crossed to the bed, sat down and pulled Jamie down beside her. Placing an arm around his shoulder, she hugged him to her side. "What do they pick on you about? Is it just because of the clothes?"
"Not really. They only do that sometimes. Usually it's about my glasses and my braces and they call me 'egghead' if I answer too many questions in class."
"But the teachers are so proud of how clever you are, and you get great marks..."
Jamie gave a half-hearted shrug. "Yeah, but the other kids say I make them look dumb on purpose."
"That's not true!" Amanda was appalled at how nasty some of the children could be. She'd known all the neighbourhood children for years. Mind you, since she'd been working at the Agency, she hadn't been as involved...
"It's okay Mom. Don't worry. I can handle it." Jamie pushed away from his mother. "Can I try these clothes on later? I sorta want to go and do something else for awhile."
Amanda nodded, ruffled his hair and watched him leave, his shoulders slumped. She bit her lip and blinked a few times to hold back tears. Every child probably went through a stage of being picked on but, as a mom, it still hurt when you realized that your child was being a victim.
She stared at the piles of clothing and sighed. She no longer felt like looking at them either. Wandering down stairs, she made a cup of tea and then sat down at the table, wondering what she could do to make things easier on Jamie....
Someone knocked on the door and she looked up to see her friend Jan peering in through the window. She waved for her to enter.
"Hey Amanda, what are you up to?" Jan grabbed a cup out of the cupboard and helped herself to some tea before sitting down opposite her friend.
"Nothing much. Just trying to get the kids ready to go back to school."
"And it can't happen too soon. My oldest, Dan, is driving me crazy—just mopes about the house eating and playing video games. I know in a few years he'll turn back into the loveable kid I gave birth to, but right now..." She shuddered and shook her head in exasperation.
"My guys aren't at that stage yet, but when they get there, you can remind me all about it." Amanda gave her friend a brief smile but then sobered. "Right now I just hope I can make it through the preteens."
"Well, you know how money is tight." Jan nodded. "Well, I've been having Jamie wear a lot of Phillip's hand me downs the last few years and he hates it. They're still good clothes but I guess some of the kids at school have noticed and are teasing him about it."
"That's tough. My two are really different in size, so I've only been able to hand down a few things."
"It's not just the clothes. I guess they tease him about his braces and glasses and even the fact that he's so clever."
"Ouch! What are you going to do?"
"I have no idea. I said I'd talk to their parents but he felt that would make it worse."
"He's probably right. Then the kids would be angry because he got them in trouble."
The two friends sipped their tea in silence, both thinking. Then Jan's face brightened. "You know Amanda, I bet Jamie's picked on when he's by himself. If he's with a group of friends, the other kids will be more likely to leave him alone."
"Well, Jamie is a bit of a loner right now..." Amanda responded hesitantly.
"So let's get him involved in some stuff. Sign him up for art lessons, or karate or a science club. If he makes friends with kids who have similar interests, they can hang out together. He'll probably feel more confident too and able to stand up to the kids who are picking on him."
"That might work. I think I saw something in a flyer at the library about after school programs." Amanda furrowed her brow, trying to remember where she'd placed the brochure.
"The community centre offers stuff too. And you know what, the whole clothes thing probably won't bother him quite so much then ...wait a minute... there's a new outlet mall that's just opened up. Supposedly it sells name brands really cheap. How about we go check it out? If the prices are low enough, maybe you can save some money on Phillip's clothes and have some left over for Jamie."
"I guess it's worth a try." Amanda answered slowly. She wasn't sure if Jan really knew how tight things were right now. Looking at her friend's face, she saw how eager she was to help. Rather than disappoint her, Amanda fell in with the plan. After all, it couldn't hurt to look.
"Come on. Grab your purse and we'll check it out together. I'm always looking for a deal myself."
Amanda allowed herself to be lead out of the house and popped into Jan's car. It was nice to have a friend to share your troubles with and together they had come up with a few ideas that might help. Her heart still ached for Jamie and she wished she could wipe away all of the pain and hurt in his life. The braces and glasses were tough on any kid and then having an absentee father didn't make matters any easier. She knew she couldn't change those factors but the clothes were another matter. While what you wore shouldn't be that important, Amanda also knew that wearing something you liked could really boost your self-esteem.
As they drove along, Amanda fingered the silver bracelet on her arm. Joe had given it to her on their fifth wedding anniversary. It was a pretty trinket but there was no real sentimental value left to it. She stared at it thoughtfully...
A week later....
"Mom, you're the best!" Jamie had on his new faded jeans and sports jersey. The shopping bag in his hand held two more shirts. "How'd you get the money? You said there wasn't any."
"Well, Jan told me about that discount store and the money went farther than I thought it would." Amanda watched her son preen in front of the mirror. He was so happy... She rubbed her bare wrist and wondered if she'd done the right thing. She knew she wouldn't always be able to solve his problems and sometimes it was even good to have to deal with hardship but just this once...