Sunday, December 9, 2007

My Friend, My Brother, My Shirt

I can tell the pressure is residing. Today I actually folded clothes. This is a change from my pattern of the last three or four weeks, which saw me grabbing something from the wrinkly pile I had hastily washed the night before and putting it in the dryer for five minutes as I frantically shoved things into my book bag before rushing out the door, hopefully with the article of clothing on my back. The wrinkly, but clean, pile was acceptable, but on certain days when no laundry was available I resorted to the dirty wrinkly pile—not something I’m proud to admit. My only consolation is that during this period in the semester many resort to the same style. I’ve even heard professors admit it.

So as I was folding my first round today (a wrinkly pile that had been sitting on the back porch for about four days) I ran into a dire moral dilemma, one that made me reevaluate the notion that I might be obsessive. I realized that some of the clothes had almost deteriorated into rag-status. As I examined a frayed and grease-stained golf-shirt I thought “why am I wasting energy and water on washing these things, I can’t wear them in public and I rarely want to wear them around the house?”

I gathered them up and put them right in the garbage. Done, problem solved. But when I started folding again I realized I had missed one. It was the green polo-style shirt. I wore it into the ground, retiring it when an un-removable stain appeared and it was good only for yard-work-days and lounging. This I grabbed up too and unceremoniously tossed it into the trash.

I moment later I had pulled out ole’ Greeny and the rest and put them on the ottoman. I just couldn’t throw them out. I was humanizing the damn things.

I suppose there’s something about pack-rats and people who can’t throw out anything from bottle caps to broken refrigerators. I can tell you why I do it. The clothes represent a time I believe I will have to let go of if I throw away any physical representation of it.

Ole’ Greeny and the rest are probably ten or more years old. What was I doing ten years ago? I was a chef at a country club, Margaret and I had just taken our first trip to Scotland—an amazing trip—and I was in the first or second year of my mortgage, a proud homeowner who did yard work regularly and played in a band with two old friends from high school. I was actually making a little money as well.

Some of those things are still with me, some aren’t. But the clothes are. Even in their rag-tag incarnation they provide sentimental recall for me. Ole’ Greeny (I know, that name is getting old) used to be my favorite shirt! How can I throw it out? Do I have to move on? I can’t seem to picture the shirt in a landfill somewhere surrounded by plastic grocery-bags and empty soda cans. First of all, it's 100% cotton. You just don’t do that to 100% cotton.

I have no idea what to do with these clothes, and if anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them. They are definitely not material for Goodwill—they are way past that point. My mom used to turn old clothes into house-hold rags, but to me that seems like a demotion, like sending a guy with a .322 lifetime-batting-average to go run the concession stand.

So, I think I’ll post pictures—a Hall of Fame for knits. A strange thing I know, but for me, appropriate.

Old Greeny

These shirts alway get holes around the collar.

These have seen better days.


Danny said...

You should save these clothes so that your future wife has something to throw out. That will keep her away from the other crappy clothes you love and refuse to part with. Be sure to scream in horror when she suggests getting rid of them and then finally agree so she mistakenly believes she's giving you a makeover.

(Note: This comment bears no resemblance to my current married life!)

IM said...

Good tactic Danny, now I know they will serve some important future purpose.