I don’t throw clothes away, no matter how tattered and worn they’ve become. I have a t-shirt from 1998, a lovely orange one that was always big on me, but I love it, because it’s like a nightshirt at times. The bright orange that it used to be has faded to more of a burnt sienna over the years, through its myriad wearings. I’ve actually thought more than once about tossing it in the garbage. The sweat stains have set in under the armpits after so long, but I can’t bear to part with it. Because its memories are a major part of my past, from two lifetimes ago.
There are a pair of white exercise pants that I no longer wear. They are still in pristine condition, with a double-black stripe down each of the legs that seem a bit out of date but also chic at the same time. They flare at the bottoms to give them a 1970s feel that I adore and appreciate probably more than I should. For the past two years they have lain dormant, folded up like a tent in one of my closet cubbies, because, you see, the last time I wore them was a traumatic time for me. But the other memories they contain are too overwhelming to be completely destroyed by that one particular time. It is enough to leave them folded, put away, as if I will wear them again someday.
Yesterday, though, I did throw out three white tube socks. As I took them down from the clothesline I noticed each one had a medium-sized hole in its heel, as if a small bird came through and pecked them in the exact same spot, drunk as he was on power and hatred for human feet. I mourned each one in turn as I delivered them to the god of refuse. It was bad enough losing some of their brethren to the dreaded curse of the dryer, but angry birds just ratcheted up the pain another notch. Those socks were of the same batch I purchased six years ago as a present to myself for getting tenure at school. But I let them go.
You see, clothing is more than just a fashion choice for me. Indeed, if I could I would probably wear the same shirt and pants every single day of my life, the most comfortable ones I own. But I can’t do that, what with societal restrictions and the fact that they would soon fall apart from excessive wearing and washing, and that suitably saddens me because certain pieces of clothing have been my friends for years. They’ve seen me through several relationships, two major moves, and a horde of special occasions. They were with me on the first days of school, on the days my daughters were born, and on hot, steamy days that seemed to have no end.
Through it all they have been with me. And I recognize them for the role they have played. But it’s getting to be time, time to retire some of those shirts that have been stretched beyond what they can bear, some of the pants that have begun to unravel from the bottom up, some of them stained as if they’re bleeding out. It’s time to choke back tears and, in the immortal words of Elsa, let it go. Let them meet a better fate than I have given them lo these many years. It’s time for them to go, and for new memories to move in to these drawers of mine.