I realize this Memorial Day weekend, as I think of my loved ones who have passed on, that I keep articles of clothing in memoriam. It’s something I have done unconsciously, until now. Here are a few pieces I cherish.
After my father died, I kept an old blue T-shirt he wore in softball games with his coworkers. My dad was always athletic: football in high school; baseball and basketball. He taught us how to swim, and loved to go running.
This T-shirt has a faded number 8 on the back, chosen for the number of children he has. I used to wear it to run in, but I want to preserve it. Now, I wear it around the house when I need some familiar comfort. It’s wonderfully soft from use.
My Grandpa O began his life on a potato farm in Idaho; he’s my mom’s dad. He was a natural at growing things, and remained an avid gardener throughout his life. Whenever he came to visit us in Florida, he would be fixing up our neglected garden, and setting up the compost pile by the fence with dried leaves on top. The compost bin would appear by the sink, and we’d return to the practice of tossing in peels and organic waste. I mostly remember him outdoors, staying busy.
Grandpa O had a light grey Champion sweatshirt that was passed on to me by my grandmother after he died. I also wear it to go running. Now, it has a small hole near the cuff burned by a camp fire cinder.
One year, I went with my mom and siblings to Yellowstone for the first time. It was late May, so we Floridians thought it was practically summer, and therefore warm outside. We realized our thinking error as we drove past snow banks taller than the car. My brother, Dan, didn’t even bring a coat, so I lent him Grandpa O’s sweatshirt. Luckily, Dan knew how to build us a fire. The evidence of this adventure is seared in the sleeve.
This sweatshirt reminds me of my grandpa working in the yard, and of a snowy May vacation with my family every time I wear it. It’s a great piece for wearing out of doors.
Now that I’m aware of my practice of keeping clothing, I have plenty more stories for Memorial Day. I have so many loved ones who have passed on, and I love to remember them this way- through the clothing that touched their skin, through the pieces they lived life in.