When you’re the eldest child you have the advantage of being the top of the “Hand Me Down Game.” You get to be the first player by cutting the tags off the new sweater.  Your sister goes next with the broken pieces you leave her. She gets to cover up the stains you left during your turn. If your family plays a lot then your brother is up next.

I thought the “Hand-Me-Down Game” ended when you grew up. When there is no longer a need to play with the worn and rejected. The “Hand-Me-Down Game” becomes more complex and less obvious that you’ve losing by winning someone else’s crap. 

    My friend “Toby” has an older brother, “Chuck,” who bought some land near their parent’s house in Texas. He built two houses on the property with the intention of renting one for income. It was a weekend project for him. Chuck is a skilled laborer with a lot of friends happy to help  for a case of beer and some grub. The first house went up pretty quick and Chuck moved inside. The next house took more time.  He hired carpenters to carve beams and cabinetry that were featured in a magazine. He put in a pool with a cabana perfect for parties. After three years, Chuck moved into a mansion sitting with a breathtaking view of rolling hills and sunsets. 

    Chuck decided he didn’t want the trouble of handling renters. Out of the “generosity of his heart” he offered to lease the older home to Toby. This sounded like a good idea. Toby’s job allows him to work from anywhere.  He lived three hours away in the city and was selling body parts to keep up with the rent. Their parents were getting older and thrilled to have both boys close again. 

    When Toby came down to look at the house his mother greeted him with tears of joy. Toby thought he was doing a good thing until he was crying tears of his own. While Chuck was working on his dream mansion, he neglected his quick start home. Toby’s new house was an eye sore of dry wall and nails hidden behind a sad cluster of trees rotting from disease. Chuck left unfinished projects. There were wires hanging from the ceiling instead of a chandelier, a steep stair case missing a banister, and no real plumbing. Toby had a theory that’s the reason the trees were dying. 

    Toby thought renting the house was a joke until Chuck pulled out a contract. There were penalties for paying late and an expectation that rent would be reduced when Toby finished the “projects.”  Chuck added a paragraph that Toby could use the pool (with enough notice) and included a long list of maintenance fees.  Chuck was playing the adult version of  the  “Hand Me Down Game.”

    The big advantage to being an adult is that you can quit and take yourself (the game piece) home. Toby hightailed it back to the city and let a naive cousin spin the wheel of disaster.  Your parents can make you wear a sweater but they can’t make you live in a house. Toby’s parents were disappointed he didn’t accept the generosity of his big brother but they didn’t push. They were both the youngest of large families. I’m sure they grew up as returning contestants to the “Hand Me Down” game.

Published by Julie Ann Sanchez