Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my parents had a T-Shirt.

I say "my parents" because, frankly, I've never been entirely sure to whom said T-Shirt belonged. I'm mostly sure that it was, at least originally, my father's, but then Mom started "borrowing" it in that way that couples do, and eventually it was sort of a communal shirt.

Let me back up a bit. The T-Shirt dated to well before I was even a twinkle in my parents' eyes. (Can there be a communal twinkle? Eh, why the hell not --if there can be a communal shirt, right?) I'm not sure if it found its way into my father's possession before my parents' marriage, but it almost definitely lived with them when they were Windy City denizens. They were young, they were cute, and they loved to bike along the lake.

Huh. Actually, all three of those things still apply to my parents. Although these days they bike to the beach on the island. Well anyway.

So Dad, as is his wont, got pretty into the biking during the many years when it was his main form of transportation, and what with one thing and another, he acquired the T-Shirt. Made of wonderful soft thin cotton, imprinted with the Motobécane France logo, it may have been no more than a bicycle brand promotion, but that never mattered to me. In fact, I have no idea if Dad actually had a Motobécane bicycle; I think I was into my teens before I ever knew that the brand was a bicycle-and-motorcycle brand, not just a clothing company. Bikes shmikes, frankly; it was all about the T-Shirt. And as it grew more worn and beloved over the years, it became, to my child's eye, the world's most wonderful piece of clothing.

I still can't quite recall how I came to be in possession of the T-Shirt. I probably snagged it as a sleep shirt, and Mom and Dad graciously let it stay in my dresser drawer. Not that this was a rare occurence, since I'm pretty sure I stole my mom's "Ladue 63124" tee --yes, there was a time when we all that was very clever -- along with both my mother's and my father's versions of the Smith College centennial shirt (motto: "A Century of Women on Top" -- can't you tell, looking at those Smithies there? Heh).

But those shirts were just clothing, utilitarian. Not like the T-Shirt. Every time I wore it, I felt a little bit special, a little bit more connected to a life my parents had led that I had not known.

The T-Shirt traveled with me from St. Louis, to Cambridge, to Manchester, back to Cambridge, and to Portland. After a few years, I noticed that the T-Shirt didn't look quite as hale and hearty as it once had. It found a pleasant home in my t-shirt storage linen basket, and I let it rest.

Recently I uncovered the T-Shirt and pulled it out. The cotton has worn so thin in so many places that there are irreperable holes all throughout the shirt. The logo is so faded that the words are only visible to eyes that knew where once they lay. Perhaps it is symbolic of the company, the trials and ultimate downfall, the fading from the public eye. A talisman, a safety blanket, and a reminder of another time.

Or maybe it's just a shirt. But to me, it will always be the T-Shirt, holes and all, happily whiling away its days in my drawer, and occasionally accompanying me to bed on a hot summer's night.

I'd just better be sure not to wear it out of the house, because some of these holes? Damn.

No comments: