17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

101 Uses for an Old White Sheet

About five months after dh and I were first married, we were asked to serve as a "Ma and Pa" in the East Brunswick, NJ youth conference/pioneer trek—you know, one of those life-altering wilderness experiences for kids, where they dress in pioneer clothes and spend a weekend pulling a 400-pound wooden handcart in families consisting of other youth and two leaders: the Ma and Pa. I remember getting a packet of instructions about our responsibilities, necessary preparations, etc. One of the things we were supposed to do before starting our trek with the kids was to have them make a banner to represent our family. The packet casually suggested, "Bring an old white sheet" to be painted, decorated, and flown on the family handcart.

We didn’t have an old white sheet. We had just gotten married. Everything we owned was bran-spankin’ new and came to us as gifts from receptions and showers. There was no way I was going to use any of our sheets as our family banner.

I can’t remember what I ended up using for our banner, but I do remember feeling an acute sense of not having come of age as a family. Real families have old white sheets. Real families have old sheets that can be used for creative things like youth conference banners. Real families have old things. Real families have things they’ve used so much they can be recycled for new purposes. We had no such possessions, and I felt like it meant we weren’t a real family.

Of course, it didn’t mean that, but owning an old white sheet became a sort of rite of passage to be crossed sometime in the future, and I wondered when it would happen. I quickly felt like we were a married couple, but I wondered when I would feel like we were a family.

Finally, this year I crossed the old-white-sheet rite of passage. Our queen-sized white sheet ripped in the middle and had to be retired as a bed sheet but has been reincarnated as a drop cloth under SJ’s high chair, and now a ghost on our balcony until Halloween. I can’t tell you how grown up I feel! We finally have an old white sheet! And I’ve gotten it dirty and painted it with a happy ghost face. I can’t wait to find another 99 uses for it over the course of a lifetime as a family.

Other things have emerged in life as rites of passage to becoming a family: repeating a tradition created by just us; holding regular family home evenings where gospel instruction actually takes place; eating dinner together.

What are the rites of passage you feel you have crossed to become a family? When did you first feel you were a family? At marriage? After the first baby? Are there any rites of passage you still feel you haven’t crossed? What are they?

And do you have an old white sheet? If so, to what wonderful, creative uses have you put it? I’d love to know, because mine still has a lot of life left in it.


  • None of my old sheets are white. But I do have a lot of old sheets!

    I felt I had come of age as a mom when I realized I could usually make a new meal out of whatever leftovers were in the fridge, and cook the components of a meal so they all got done at the same time. I guess it struck me because I had always struggled with what seemed to be so effortless for the (older) moms I knew.
    posted by Blogger ldahospud at 10/22/2007 05:17:00 AM  

  • I used some discarded curtains for a Virgin Mary outfit for my little one, for our Christmas Card...I think you could do the same for a sheet. I just barely bought my first set of white sheets as a backup for a new bed I bought...I have never slept on or owned white sheets until that set, and I have yet to use them.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 10/22/2007 05:27:00 AM  

  • I really love this post... I think for us, I am just now feeling like we are a "real family" even though I know families really come in all shapes and sizes. With DH's new work schedule, we have family dinner almost every night which has really solidified our first tradition together.

    I think the first time I felt it was visiting the ward I grew up in with both my kids and DH together. It was like, wow, this is MY family...people see us as a unit....they aren't asking me how school or sports are going...they are asking about my children and my husband ... I definitely realized that day that I was all grown up.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 10/22/2007 06:46:00 AM  

  • Growing up, our old white sheets were always turned into angel costumes for the Christmas nativity, wraps when we got our hair cut by mom, and roofs for our couch cushion "forts".

    I felt like we were a "real family" the first year we spent Christmas Day on our own, at our own house-and that happened only a couple years ago after being married 9 years.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/22/2007 07:35:00 AM  

  • And I love your ghost. Going to pull out my old white sheets later to make a few for our porch!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/22/2007 07:36:00 AM  

  • I have had two of these 'we are finally a family' moments:

    1. Ever since we have been having regular family scripture study/family prayer every night.

    2. Since we brought #2 home from the hospital...it just felt even more complete than with just #1 around.
    posted by Anonymous going on 5 yrs married at 10/22/2007 07:38:00 AM  

  • I love this post, Sunny!

    I have lots of old sheets...but that's because I also buy sheets frequently. They get used for all kinds of stuff.

    Felt like a "real" family...since we've started having family prayer everyday with both kids. Yesterday watching our 4 year old participate in the ward Primary program. Sunday night family dinners. Parent nights at the preschool this year when we went back and forth to both our childrens classes.
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 10/22/2007 08:11:00 AM  

  • I totally understand what you are saying! I remember growing up and thinking certain bath towels, or kitchen things looked so old, and my mom would talk about how she got this or that for her wedding, and how much she'd used it over the years.

    Just the other day I folding my own towels and thinking, Wow, I got these for my wedding and they're really starting to look worn. It made me feel like we'd graduated from "young marrieds" to full fledged family. And oddly enough I don't want to get rid of those towels and sheets either. They're symbols of the time we've spent together.

    Anyway, I love having family vacations all alone with just us and our 2 kids. We went to the beach last summer together and I think it was the most fun I have had in years. Having our kids old enough to really enjoy it. It was great.

    And having traditions long enough that your kids anticipate them with excitement. That's fun.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 10/22/2007 08:18:00 AM  

  • Great post. When DH and I moved cross country after being married about 7 months I felt like we were a "real family". We only had eachother to lean on. We made new friends together, served in our ward together. It's like we had to make it on our own for the first time.

    It is also nice to have our own family traditions now. Taking my first child to the "trunk or treat" makes me feel like a real family, too.
    posted by Blogger beth at 10/22/2007 09:11:00 AM  

  • Blankets. For some reason having lots of blankets around the house was something I thought of as a symbol of what families have. Blankets for guests and for watching movies and for reading on a chilly day . . . I can't say I've had that "real family" moment (we've only been married 2 years) but when we moved we brought WAY too many blankets.
    posted by Blogger miggy at 10/22/2007 09:30:00 AM  

  • Last year, when I cancelede a personal trip because my kids were sick, I finally felt like a real mother.

    I think I had been married almost three years when I finally felt like a realy family. We moved two states away from my family, and it wasn't until then that I felt like I had become one with my husband and baby son.

    What a great post. Thanks!
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 10/22/2007 10:12:00 AM  

  • KKK Robes. lol. Just kidding, but I couldn't resist...
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/22/2007 10:16:00 AM  

  • Ah, using old sheets for angel costumes in the nativity pageant. Tons of experience with that when I was growing up. My older sister and I had long blond hair, so we were always the angels together--with tinsel in our hair.

    Thanks for all the thoughts. Moving together, family vacations together, praying together . . . blankets! (in my family, it's quilts made by my mom). So interesting what forms our concept of family.

    Another powerful moment for me was right after SJ was born--lying in the hospital room with her asleep on one side of me, dh asleep on the other side, feeling like I was responsible for these two humans in a new way, like I was bound to them by something stronger than just having chosen to live together.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 10/22/2007 04:09:00 PM  

  • Aw, what a sweet post. Our old white sheets are still on our beds. I have a hard time buying new sheets. They are so expensive for what they are - it seems crazy!
    posted by Blogger Sue at 10/22/2007 09:20:00 PM  

  • The first Christmas we had at our home. My parents were there, but it just felt like we had reached this moment where we were no longer pretending to be our own family; our small family unit suddenly became more important than our own respective families.

    Old sheets? Yeah, but most of them are not white. But I don't have that many, so they get used. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/23/2007 07:42:00 AM  

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