Monday, July 18, 2011

Closets and Recollections

So I'm cleaning out my closets, and this time I swear I'm going to be ruthless. It doesn't matter how cute something looks on the hanger. For once, I'm going to accept the fact that...

...I never got around to buying a top to go with these pants, and what's more, I never will.

...no matter how much I hope it won't, the red fleece sweater will always attract every dog hair within fifty miles.

...the '90s are never, ever coming back.

No rationalization. No denial. And it's working. The donation bags are getting full, my overstuffed drawers are breathing sighs of relief. Then...I get to the T-shirts.

I pull out this tank, squashed near the bottom of the drawer, and instantly I'm back in Italy. Hot blazing blue sky, turquoise water. White pebble beaches and crooked narrow streets. It was my first trip abroad. I was 22. That fall, I started...

...veterinary school, where I met...

...my sweetheart. Yellowstone was our first road trip. Every night, we had to find a hill to park on so that we could roll-start the VW van the next morning. VW vans have crappy electrical systems. On the upside, every other VW driver on the road will wave to you.

After we graduated, my sweetheart moved to Kansas, while I drove down I-5 to my first veterinary job in...

...Mariposa, just outside Yosemite National Park. I made a wonderful friend, Marybeth, and we went to the county fair and I got this tee promoting Mariposa County's Division of Alcohol and Drug Programs. I have no idea why. Anyway, the butterfly is pretty.

From thousands of miles away, my sweetheart sent me an Indigo Girls song:

"To let this love survive would be the greatest gift we could give
Tell all the friends who think they're so together
That these are ghosts and mirages, these thoughts of fairer weather
Though it's storming out, I feel safe within the arms
Of love's discovery."


Not surprisingly, soon after that we moved to Tennessee together...

...where, among other things, we went to Indigo Girls concerts. And then...

One by one, I lay the T-shirts out. They're old. Most of them I haven't worn in years.
Get rid of them, the ruthless voice demands. They're just taking up space.

I smooth my hand over the worn fabric, the cracked designs. And then I fold them back up, one by one, and I nestle them back in the drawer.

Sometimes, the best memories aren't in photographs.

17 comments:

Walter Rowntree said...

Ha! The Man Himself, Alice Cooper, came to Idaho Falls last Spring for an outdoor concert and I was able to dig out a T-shirt I'd bought DECADES ago, as a TEENAGER when I went to see him on his Welcome to my Nightmare concert tour! NEVER throw away your memories!

Melissa Marsh said...

I can SO relate to this. I have a ton of t-shirts that hold special memories for me, too. I should just hang them up in my closet, though, as I have more room there than in my drawers!

Christine Fletcher said...

My ex-sister in law saw this post and she had a GREAT suggestion: a T-shirt quilt! She's done this a few times and they look really beautiful. Keep the memories and free up space: win-win.

Sally Nemeth said...

I'v seen t-shirt quilts & they're awesome. I make baby quilts & if your sis-in-law hadn't already offered, I'd have been happy to turn them old shirts into a cozy quilt for you!

Christine Fletcher said...

Sally--a quilter, too?! Your list of talents never ceases to amaze! :)

Andrea said...

Wow! Such a fun and original idea to tell your story in tee-shirts. That was a lark, and I learned so much about you. Also, I so sympathize about the red fleece and the dog hair. I have a wine-colored wool sweater that I'd have to put a plastic bag over if I wanted to wear it. And yet, I can't let it go...nope, can't let it go.

Christine Fletcher said...

Andrea, I never thought of history a la tee shirt until it was staring me in the face, defying me to throw it out. As you say...nope, couldn't do it. :)

Robb L. Robertson said...

I was touched by this post - it resonated with me...Anyway, I landed in your post after googling for a pic of Anna Karenina to tag the audiobook files I was sorting. I didn't like the cover pic that came with the novel when I downloaded it from my public library. I was actually looking for the Pevear translation cover pic I have on the well-worn hard copy I own, but when I saw your pic, I decided I liked it more. That's all.
btw, did you attend Vet school in Davis? Just a guess. I got my bs from UCD in '97 (civil engineering). Cheers,
Robb L. Robertson

Christine Fletcher said...

Robb, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I graduated from UCD veterinary school, a few years before you were there. Went back last year for a reunion...so many things still the same, although the new stadium out by the vet school sure took me by surprise!

Travis Erwin said...

I used to have a bajillion t-shirts chronicling my life and travels but sadly house fire took care of them. But I still have the memories.

Christine Fletcher said...

Terrible that you lost your stuff in a house fire. That must have been devastating. True about the memories, though...sometimes, when we go places, I deliberately don't take photos because I want to remember the scene as I see it, not as seen through a viewfinder. Photos don't tell the whole story, t-shirts are simply a prompt; memories are best.

Lisa Nowak said...

I'm so glad you kept the t-shirts. Those memories put them in a totally different category than the pants you won't ever buy a top for. And I hate to say it, but the '90s will be back. Maybe not literally, but old fashions never die. They just silently lurk, waiting for their chance to be reincarnated.

Christine Fletcher said...

Lisa, too true! Although some fashions need a wooden stake through the heart to make them die forever (harem pants, anyone?)

A better way to put it is that the '90s are never coming back...for me. Skinny pegleg jeans? Been there, done that, hardly anyone looks good in them. The difference is that now I know better. Yeah, they'll have to wrestle my boot cut denims out of my cold, dead hands...

Catherine Ensley said...

Wonderful post. I loved learning about you through your t-shirts. I've never been much of a t-shirt gal, but I have saved a couple of garment bags' worth of particularly memorable clothing. Now when my 10-year-old granddaughter comes, she LOVES to get them out and dress up in them.

Christine Fletcher said...

Catherine, I have some old clothes of my mother's and grandmothers', and I cherish them. They feel more personal than jewelry, more alive and warm, as if they would tell fascinating stories if only they could talk. I'm glad your granddaughter has memorable clothes to dress up in!

Brian H. said...

Great post. Just heard the Indigo Girls have a new CD coming out soon.

: )

As for shirts, I have one left from our honeymoon 18 years ago. Seems like all we did week was buy t-shirts.

Christine Fletcher said...

Brian, I admit I've been a bit remiss in keeping up with the Indigo Girls; although I still love listening to the albums I have.

Commemorative honeymoon T-shirt--love it.