The T-shirt drawer

From the recesses of Calvin's dresser

I don’t get nostalgic about many things. Certain smells, I suppose. The sound of a particular type of commercial airplane that I can’t identify by name steadily buzzing across the sky. Past homes I’ve lived in. Old songs on the radio. All with their own reasons attached like sails, sending me back, back, back.

But one of the things I get most nostalgic about, a thing that never fails to cause me to bite my lower lip to curb the swell of a lump in my throat (proven remedy), are the old t-shirts of my children. T-shirts that say, Pear Blossom Fun Run 2007 with the comical image of a bottom-heavy pear wobbling toward a finish line, and First Presbyterian Preschool ‘Lil Critters stamped with small handprints, and Laguna Beach Junior Lifeguards that actually still fits because it fell to Nate’s knees the day he got it. Shirts that are labeled with the sizes of our past:  2T and 4T and 6-8. Shirts long stained or ripped or too-squeezy that tell of a time, a place, a path we walked two summers ago, three school years ago, a veritable lifetime ago in the timeline of our family.

I save these t-shirts in a box in my closet, because one day, I’m going to commission my mom to create quilts of them as she did once for me. I don’t look at them much. But sometimes, one escapes. To the back of the closet. To the box of hand-me-downs. To the impossible-t0-reach floor behind the dryer. Or worst yet: to that wedge of space between the dresser drawer and the wall.

And I’ll find it there, hiding: Wildlife of the Grand Canyon (its glow-in-the-dark owl eyes staring back at me). Park City Utah Cub Club. AYSO Fighting Dragons. Great Wolf Lodge, a HOWLING Good Time. And dammit, I’ll feel myself tearing up. Because we were just there, weren’t we? We were just on that road trip, on that team, on that highway that took us to that preschool, to that vacation, to that weekly play space.

Those labels, faded and peeling? They were just us. How can it be that they’re already three sizes too small? How it is possible that the only place they’re still worn is on the beaming children four, five, six volumes back in the photo albums?

It can’t be true. But Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not San Francisco begs to differ.

This post inspired by the weekly Writing Hood prompt at Red Dress Club and contributed to Wordful Wednesday.

35 thoughts on “The T-shirt drawer

  1. A quilt from old t-shirts! What a brilliant idea. I am nostalgic too but I’d hate to be a hoarder and keep things around just to appease my occasional jaunt down memory lane. But a quilt? I think it’s the perfect solution. Thank you 🙂

  2. This is interesting. I’m not a T-shirt person, so I don’t know if I’ll get worked up about them. I’m pretty comfortable with getting rid of their clothes since they only last a season, but I can see what you mean, when the t-shirt was from a special event or something. Yeah, I can see why that would make a mother nostalgic!

  3. I love that idea, too! Except that we travel a lot and I have always refused to buy overpriced t-shirts for the girls of places we go! Now I feel like a cheapskate who is missing out! LOL!

  4. See, now I have a lump in my throat. Just a couple of weeks I did the seasonal rotation of clothes, new ones for my oldest, hand-me downs for my youngest. A pile of smaller clothes goes to two of my girlfriends with baby boys and I keep a special pile of favourites, in case some day there is a third.

    • It’s something of a seasonal ritual, isn’t it? The laying down of the old, the buying (or unpacking) of the new. You’ll be glad you kept the favorites, whether the future holds a third or not, I imagine.

  5. I always wanted to do this but I’m no good at saving, instead always rushing forward into the next experience. I want to learn to savor and let the memories age. The quilt sounds like something the boys will treasure.

  6. I always wonder where the time goes…and I wish I could find some moments from the past hidden at the back of the drawer along with those outgrown t-shirts, or in my case a watermelon dress my daughter wore when she was just a baby. She’s 15 now:)

    • I know that’s what photos are for, but there’s something about holding that t-shirt (or watermelon dress) tangibly in our arms, isn’t there? Glad you stopped by today, Valerie!

    • Yes, exactly…those items all my kids wore, one right after the other, just tear at my heart. Why do good memories, heck, everyday memories, hurt so much?! It’s crazy!

  7. I am a t-shirt person 100%. In fact, no trip is complete without something to represent – for me, the hubby and the kids. I haven’t saved them over time but I do get a little teary-eyed when the time comes for them to go on to a different life. The quilt idea is very cool.

    • I know t-shirts as souvenirs are a rip-off, and I’m usually a cheapskate, but I can never resist them. The other junk in souvenir shops I can pass by without a problem!

  8. I really enjoyed this post because I could have written it myself. I too have a box filled with old clothes that will one day be a quilt for me to curl up in. I can think of nothing more luxurious than a quilt pieced together by memories and love.
    Great job with this prompt!

  9. Old shirts are one of those items that totally bring you back to that time and place. I still have several from my childhood that I if I tried to squeeze into, they would be more of a belly shirt than a t. 🙂

  10. The little clothes do me in too. I’m saving them for a quilt too. Hopefully my mom doesn’t mind. 🙂
    I hate that spot between the dresser and wall, so many things stuck there.

  11. I’m so glad that you’re saving these shirts for a quilt. I wish I’d done the same. Wait. I guess I can start from this point forward, yes? 🙂

    This was a fantastic post.

  12. There is something so profound and sentimental about old clothes, because they conjure up memories of the little bodies that used to inhabit them. The running, dancing, and falling of not-so-coordinated kiddos. I’m new to your blog and am glad that I’ve found it!

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