When our kids were little, we used to hand down their baby clothes to each other. The good clothes, that is. Gymboree, Carter's, The Children's Place, and others who put out good quality clothing that lasted so well they could be passed on to siblings and cousins.

The boys were all about the same age, so she'd ship me a box and I'd ship her a box after the boys had outgrown them. It worked out well and we saved a lot of money, even after the shipping costs.

It was always exciting to have an outfit rotate back to me for one child's younger brother. In fact. I am still struck when I look at old photos and recognize one of my nephews wearing the same outfit one of my boys had worn, or vice versa.

My twin sister didn't send me the girls' clothes. There was no need, of course. But I got burping cloths or baby hats, and whatever was unisex and could be used for either gender.

And, of course, I saved my favorite outfits the boys all wore, either collectively or individually. They are tucked away in a keepsake box just as the first tiny T-shirts and knitted baby hat each baby wore is tucked away in his own keepsake box.

Recently, I emptied a chest that was in one of the boys' room. It had old letters from a college friend, cards and letters from my husband, and other odds and ends the boys had added over the years.

At the bottom, under the stack of cards and letters, was the missing shoe from a favorite set I had bought for Joey. Surely I had saved the other shoe, determined to eventually find its mate? There was a pair of favorite pants Christopher had worn for pictures when he was a year old.

And there was a denim baby hat. I had intended to save only my favorite baby outfits. Somehow, this baby hat had purposely been tucked away, although I couldn't remember why.

But I had recently seen it in a photo, and it gave me pause. I dug out the photo, examined it closely, scrutinizing the threaded pattern of the hat in the photo to the one in my hands.

The denim had faded some, but yes, it was the same hat. My sister had sent it to me and perhaps I sent it back, and perhaps she sent it back to me again. I don't remember. But somehow, it never made its way back to her for the sons she had after I had my last.

Lauren, just 12 years old, died tragically over the summer, and there are some days that I miss her so much that it hurts. But I have this denim hat. I will cherish it not for my sons, but for my beloved niece, Lauren.

• • •

Kerri Stanley is a resident of Londonderry, involved with several local organizations. Her column appears monthly in the Derry News.

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