EDITED 10/19/11: I have to give recognition to one of my best friends Luke Glasoe for giving the Cards shirt to me. I’m not sure what possessed him to pick it out for me but I still have it and I am forever grateful for it. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received, bud. Thanks a million.
A few weeks ago I raided my dresser and got rid of lots of old stuff that didn’t fit. It’s a mildly depressing thing that some of my absolute favorite t-shirts didn’t fit anymore, (1) because it means I’m gaining more mass than I burn off and (2) because it means I had to part with some of the most character-defining articles of clothing I’ve ever worn. Before I dropped everything off at Goodwill, I took a few pictures of the most important shirts. Here they are.
Iowa Soccer Baseball Tee:
Not that significant of a shirt other than it was one of the first where I could tell Colleen really loved how I looked in it. I had never really noticed that before with any of my clothes, and I remember walking into youth group wearing this shirt (the first baseball tee I’d ever worn where the arms are a different color than the torso, makes your shoulders look huge) and seeing Colleen raise her eyebrows like “Hmm!” It was a special thing. On the other hand, one time I got called out on wearing this shirt and I started to talk about how I liked the Iowa men’s soccer team. It’s only club. So that was embarrassing.
Rhea Central Super Jacket’s Tee:
This one was a bummer to dump. I found this scrunched tight in a rack of crappy old t-shirts at a thrift store in Dayton, Tennessee. It was a local thrift store, not a Goodwill or Salvation Army, so the opportunity to find cool vintage clothes is upped quite a bit. This is the only really great thing I found that day, and I didn’t immediately think it was great but thought I’d get it since I hadn’t found anything else. It fit perfectly and was super comfortable, enough to wear to run or to play frisbee in or go to youth group or hang out or whatever. Versatility can make a pretty good piece of clothing absolutely essential in a wardrobe. The shirt was plain white, with a weird dragonfly/insect/man on it with flitting wings and a pretty phallic stinger right between his legs. What I found funny is that he’s saying “Feel the sting!” with gritted teeth and he’s finger wagging at you. Framing the insect-man were the words Rhea Central Super Jackets. Pretty simple, but I ended up wearing that shirt possibly more than any other in my wardrobe over the course of the next four to five years. Yikes. It was getting pretty gross by the end. But there are loads of cool pictures from high school with me in this shirt. More on why that’s important to me later.
The Benes #41 Cardinals Jersey Tee:
This was definitely the hardest to even think about parting with, so I didn’t. This one is the only one I kept, tucked away in an obscure corner of my dresser. I’m not sure exactly why I got so attached to this shirt. I purchased it years and years ago at a thrift store with Luke; I think it was the Salvation Army in Marion. This was the first jersey t-shirt I’d ever found and I immediately fell in love with it.
I was probably 15 years old, and the silliness and irony of a t-shirt made to look like a jersey suited the style I was looking for perfectly. I didn’t know who Benes was, as I was a Cardinals fan in name only and not in practice, but my oh my was I the biggest name-only Cardinal fan you’d ever meet. Around this same time I purchased my first Cardinals ball cap which was permanently attached to my head for the next few years. So just the mere fact that I had found a cheap Cardinals shirt endeared it to me. That it was a jersey tee made it a must-have. I wore this shirt probably not as much as the Rhea County tee, but this one was worn during some of the most indelible memories of my teenage years. Two of my absolutely favorite pictures of Colleen and me feature the Cardinals tee.
I love these pictures. These, and the Cardinals shirt, bring me back to the super fun first years of our relationship, and at an even more basic level, they bring me back to the fun years of being young. As uncomfortable, awkward, depressing, zitty, drama-filled, “whatever other miserable adjective you can think of” as teenage years are for everyone, they are so much fun. Those are the years you really begin to figure out who you are, what your identity is. You start learning how you relate to the opposite sex, what sorts of things you find funny, what things you really enjoy doing, what kinds of music you like to listen to. I really enjoyed my teenage years, and occasionally being reminded of them is fun.
The Cardinals shirt was with me through some of the most important days of those years, and I just didn’t want to get rid of that one. So I kept it. It’s odd, maybe this is just me trying to wax philisophical about getting a little older, our culture, or whatever, but I feel like my generation (and even less so the ones coming after us) have fewer and fewer relics or mementos from their childhood. I think we all have toys we played with or books we read, but it’s so rare to actually still have the items that define our realities as young kids. Every time Colleen and I visit my family in Kansas City, I love looking through the bookshelf down in the basement that has the huge collection of completely random books that Mom and Dad had collected over the years. For some reason, those flimsy paperback books about Sesame Street characters still resonate with me and bring to me this overwhelming nostalgia. And I feel like the older I get, the less I have keepsakes like that. Fifty years from now, no grandparent is going to show their Facebook account to their grandkid and say “When I was your age this is what we spent our time on, look how many friends I’ve amassed over the years!” How lame is that? It’s an old-fashioned ideal, but I want tangible items I can give my kids to touch and feel and smell and read and play with and wear.
So while it certainly doesn’t fit anymore though, I am saving the Cardinals shirt for my kids. Who knows whether or not we’ll raise Cardinals fans or if they will like dumb clothes like jersey shirts, but I would like it to be kept in a basement closet of some kind to be discovered by my child. It managed to catch the eye of a pretty young blonde girl a long time ago, who says it couldn’t happen again?