The other day I got a package in the mail from my parents, a really wonderful package full of souvenirs from their 40th anniversary trip to San Francisco and Hawaii. The souvenirs, all from Hawaii (they hopped five of the islands, I think) included Kona coffee, black pearls from Maui, a packet of Bird of Paradise seeds (how these will fair in the RV remains to be seen, but I will give them every possible advantage), and a playful Happy Honu t-shirt, with five happy turtles wearing leis. (Thanks again, Mom and Dad.)
It’s a great t-shirt (and it wasn’t the only one in the package; they also sent a green “Ithaca is Gorges” one—anyone from the northeast might fully understand the wordplay—Ithaca’s a rather steep and craggy town), it’s light blue and very soft, and the turtles are shaking their shells around the names of the islands, in a friendly font. It’s making me think of all the t-shirts I’ve ever known, and even about the word “t-shirt;” it’s such a utilitarian name, but lovable (or should I say…fitting? Forgive me, it was irresistable). T-shirt: a letter and a garment, married forever. And so, a list of all the t-shirts I’ve known and loved:
- One of my first, and longest lived, t-shirts came from my Aunt Jane and Uncle Paul, they got for me on a trip to London; it said “I’d be lost without it,” and there was a map of the London tube under the text. I must have been eight at most when they gave it to me, but I wore it through college. It was a mission statement: I wanted to go to London. Twenty-five years or more after setting that intention, I still haven’t been. Not sure what happened to the t-shirt, it may have vanished in the wash.
- A paper-thin Virginia Beach t-shirt, found at a church rummage sale when I was 16 (ironically, at youth group in that church; I was not supposed to take anything home, I was volunteering). The shirt was royal blue and entirely see-through. “Virginia Beach” and a seagull silhouette were printed in gold. By the time I gave it up at age 22 or so, the entire bottom half had evaporated, and what was left had thinned down to two microns, if that.
- A Mickey Mouse t-shirt, a souvenir from Epcot Center in the mid-80’s. I wore that one to shreds too, and this strange artist kid at my high school became taken with it/me, and starting calling me “the Mickey Mouse girl,” and sending me notes addressed with Mickey Mouse ears; a brief, awkward and restrained affair ensued. How I’m remembering this now, I honestly don’t know—I forgot about it pretty much right after high school (like we do with a lot of things from those bizarre years), thinking about t-shirts brought it back somehow.
- Various random softball jerseys in the 90’s (even though I was on only one softball team for maybe three games, drop-kicked into left field; organized sports treated me so poorly). I blame grunge for making young (non-athletic) girls wear orange “Giancarlo’s Pizza” and other hideous softball sponsors t-shirts. On the back: big unflattering numbers and someone else’s name. Grunge, plus all those stupid magazines I read that told me what to wear and how to think, are to blame. Before the internet, kiddies, print media and MTV were where the youth got schooled.
- Currently, I have three well-loved t-shirts that have been with me for some time: a Yellow Submarine one (which happily got dyed yellow in the wash somehow, it was white before); an orange Orange Crush t-shirt (from a thrift store a few years back, it’s my formal sleepwear); and a t-shirt which I never wore because it’s sized for a three-year-old, but can’t get rid of. I found it in my late grandmother’s house last summer, it’s orange with purple silkscreen reading “Schenectady! Mohawk-Hudson Railroad, 1881-1981,” in an old-timey font. There’s a vintage train between the letters and numbers. I don’t know if she meant to give it me while I was a baby (I was one on the railroad’s anniversary), or just to keep it; she liked to hang onto things, to document big events.
That’s it, those are all the t-shirts I can remember, though there must be many more lost for all eternity. Please add your own memories and photos (but not, unfortunately, actual t-shirts in the mail, I just don’t have the room); I might turn this into a bigger project.