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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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That’s Life: Sadness more bearable when you dress it up

‘If I ever go to Dubai, I’m getting some suits,” my youngest son announced out of the blue. Deep in a summer clad in comfy athletic clothes, he was discussing the woeful lack of anything dapper in his closet.

He’s going into high school and expects to attend a dance or two, but he’s outgrown anything that could be considered evening attire, interview wear, or something he’d feel fine in at a dress-up event.

They don’t happen often, but it’s nice to have appropriate apparel.

Considering his passport expired, I don’t anticipate an international fitting session for fancy clothes anytime soon, but there’s always the Nordstrom alterations department.

The first time Ian asked for a suit, he was about 7, and I was so shocked he wanted to wear anything besides sneakers and shorts, I bought pinstriped pants with a matching shirt, tie and vest in the children’s department the next time I went shopping.

Before long his requests for more formal fashion persuaded me to add several shirts and ties so he’d have Sunday morning and school concert attire options.

Then, after he outgrew those finer clothes, he soon followed in his brother’s casual Friday footsteps and began eschewing any ensemble that wouldn’t also double as workout wear. Much of it was handed down from his fast-growing brother, but Ian never complained about donning those outgrown, cast-off clothes.

In those years, Isaac had almost idol status in Ian’s eyes, with the power to inspire and influence. We often joked that we were lucky he usually chose to use that power for good and not evil, even if he convinced his little brother to stop dressing to impress for a few years.

That phase obviously ended. And I’m contemplating the last time I bought a suit.

“The first time your sister moved out, I bought your brother his suit,” I told him. “It was a silly and expensive purchase for a freshman in high school but I was missing Emily and spoiled Isaac because of it.”

Ian’s eyes widened. Both of his older siblings are moving out this month, Emily to an apartment and Isaac to an out-of-state college.

I smiled and nodded. “Prepare to be spoiled,” I said. “It will happen.”

I’m not a shopper, but when my first chick flew the nest, the urge to splurge on the kids still at home was an unexpected side effect. While I knew I’d miss Emily when she was on the other side of the world, I didn’t realize what odd things I might do to fill an unfillable void.

That fall, I found myself out of sorts, as if the world had tilted a little on its axis and I couldn’t quite find my balance. Eventually, I adjusted to our new family normal, but when I could say “yes” to a request from one of her brothers, I did.

The most memorable splurge was buying Isaac’s suit.

He was gangly and growing, so the seamstress left extra fabric in the hems, knowing we’d need to alter it again. Looking at my oldest son now, I suspect it isn’t enough to properly fit his broader, more manly shoulders.

But Ian is the same age Isaac was. His build is slightly different, but their physical resemblance is so strong from head to toe that if you know one of them, the other is an obvious brother.

“We can clean and alter Isaac’s suit for you,” I suggested, brushing aside the thought that having a piece of someone’s clothing is a cliché way to keep them close when they are away. I have other spoiling plans in mind for my soon-to-be only child at home.

Ian and I have a habit of morning coffee, but our aging espresso machine offers inconsistent output.

Whether or not we go suit shopping, we’re going to get an upgrade for brewing and frothing so we can drown any sorrows over his nest-flying siblings in quality lattes.

Jill Barville writes twice a month about families, life and everything else. She can be reached at

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