Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Writing Hood: What-a-Shirt

There were two of them.

Large white baseball style T's with bright orange raglan sleeves and the trademark orange W emblazoned across the breast.  They were given away as part of a grand opening ceremony for another Whataburger.  While they were most frequently worn by Daddy whenever he did any kind of sweaty man work around the house, they were communal property.  They performed double duty as nightgowns for me and play shirts for my brothers.  They sheltered Mama from the sun when she was outside with the horses.  And when one of them was falling apart, it served as rags to clean the crystal.  It was Shel Silverstein's giving tree in T-shirt form.

I'd taken one of them to college with me, wearing it as my dad did and then some.  It was my armor when I had a bad breakup and needed stability. It was my uniform when I was ill and needed comfort.  It was a reminder that I was loved, a physical representation of Daddy's hugs when I was little and thought he was Superman.  I would swaddle myself in it, stroking the soft folds between my fingers, the adult version of sucking my thumb.  It was instantly subduing and calmed me from within.  Nothing could touch me in that shirt.

I wish I had one of them now.  In what started out as a decent day quickly turned sour when Michael called with the news that he'd be job searching again.  His store was closing, another victim to the economy and changing technology.  It seemed like it was only yesterday that we'd finally found calm waters and now we were being tossed around in the storm one more time.  I wanted to run from the world's troubles and hide from all our hardships.  I wanted to wrap my body in thin, faded orange cotton and curl up someplace cool and dark until the unfairness of life abated. 

But the shirts are lost and gone forever.  I know, because I've looked for mine every time I clean out my closets.  Somewhere in the course of moving from apartment to apartment in the ten years since I left home, it quietly disappeared without so much as a backward glance.  I still hold out hope that I'll find it tucked away in a box somewhere, still soft and streaked with ancient grease stains, pocked with tiny holes where the cotton wore too thin.  Occasionally I am treated to a tangible memory of the shirt when I pick up a cashmere sweater or silk blouse.  It was nothing but simple cotton, but years of wear and love elevated it to the same tactile sensation as those elegant, costly fibers.  I've searched my parents' house for its twin, hoping I might find it folded away in a closet or stashed in the bottom of the rag bag in the mudroom, but alas, it too passed from this plane of existence a long time ago. 

As I contemplate the day's events and struggle to keep calm and carry on, I think about that old Whataburger shirt. I might not be able to wrap myself up in it anymore, but remembering the shirt is balm for my soul. Its memory serves as a gentle reminder that we'll get past this bump in the road too, just like we have everything else. 

Life will go on, with or without a T-shirt.

This post was written as part of the The Red Dress Club.  This week's prompt was to write a piece (600 word limit) about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet, letting readers know how the item was found, what it is, and why it's so meaningful to you or your character.


  1. I am so sorry your husband has to start looking for a job again and you have to go back to the storm of worry.

    I love the story of this shirt. I love how you integrated how you thought your dad as being Superman as a little girl. This is perfect in every way.

  2. Like this post alot.

    Such good writing on your part. Isn't amazing how pieces of clothing can become so meaningful to our lives? I especially liked when you used the analogy of the T shirts being like Shel Silverstein's giving tree. Such a good visual. It brought home to me the "role" the T shirts played in your life.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Came over from The RDC.

  3. Loved this one. I think it is one of my favorite from TRDC link up. Your use of visuals was outstanding and I loved all the different ways the shirt had been used that made it so special.
    Thank you for writing with not words but your heart!

  4. I love this: It was nothing but simple cotton, but years of wear and love elevated it to the same tactile sensation as those elegant, costly fibers.

    You perfectly portrayed that feeling of loss of something that gave you comfort.

  5. Your description of the worn, slightly holey fabric reminds me of my favorite college tee. That thing is going to literally disintegrate one day, I'm convinced - but it means the world to me.

  6. There is nothing like cotton to comfort. I'm sorry for what you're going through. Sending you cottony be well vibes from TRDC ((((()))))).

  7. This was a fantastic post. I love the bit about elevating the fabric from cotton to more costly fibers. Very well done.

    I'm sorry that you guys are getting ready for rough waters. We're kind rowing through them ourselves. :P Not fun.



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