Monday, 26 May 2008

Help save my ugly, skanky, whispery-soft old cotton T-shirt

There's nothing like a dose of trauma to clear out the sinuses, and no better way to refocus the mind than to launch into a feverish reorganisation of the domestic landscape. Let the wild rumpus begin! No bulging file, no deep-composted drawer, no teetering shelf has escaped my orgy of tossing, turfing, chucking and sorting.

And that's only the storage areas. Every door, window and skylight in the house bristles with bars, lugs, gates, locks, chains, padlocks and bolts. Beams sweep like spotlights across the lawn. Cans of mace and panic buttons dangle from hooks in every room. Slavering packs of deranged, red-eyed pitbulls menace the driveway (okay, the two useless Bassets and the geriatric Staffie - who were of no use at all during our robbery - snooze in the corner of the garage... but you get the picture).

My new trauma counsellor (or 'traumatologist', as my American-TV-junkie daughter so sweetly calls her) tells me that I am trying to impose order on a chaotic situation; trying to seize the levers of a runaway domestic train; trying to neutralise my post-robbery sense of infuriated powerlessness.

My traumatologist is probably right, but what she doesn't know is that this is NFM (normal for me). I've always responded to frustration, uncertainty, fear, stress and deadlines by cleaning cupboards. You should have seen the virtuous shine on my spice jars, and the anticipatory gleam on my refrigerator shelves, in the few days before my three three babies arrived! Never has a broom cupboard spicked and spanned the way mine did in the few days that followed by father's death.

Anway, back to the T-shirt. So evangelical was I this week in my chucking mission that I instructed every member of the household to scour their cupboards and hand over any item they hadn't worn in the last six months. I was astounded at the mountains of unused stuff that avalanched from cupboards. I suppose I can shrug a shoulder at the piles of T-shirts and tackies and trackie bottoms that came flopping of the teens' cupboards - they can hardly be blamed for not noticing that their thigh bones lengthen by an inch a week - but I couldn't get over how many old duvets, duvet covers, pillow cases, scuzzy blankets, covers, throws, rugs, shawls and towels I actually had, but didn't even know I owned. And how few of them I actually needed.

Well, the chuck-out did me good. Not only did I feel purged and calmly ordered on the cupboard front, but I also felt like Master and Commander of the Realm; the Chatelaine who found her lost keys. (And yes, in case you're wondering, the chuck-outs went to the Red Cross, who are caring for some of the displaced victims of Jo'burg's xenophobic attacks. I'm not going to get onto the subject of how ashamed I feel that it took me a good 10 days to realise that there were seven or so perfectly good old blankets on the shelves of my linen cupboard, waiting in folded patience for that glorious moment in the life of blankets when they finally get the chance to wrap themselves around the shoulders of a shivering refugee. )

So smugly wrapped up was I in packaging and parcelling my chuckouts that I almost missed by husband sneaking my favourite, legendary green T-shirt on to the pile.

'Time to let go,' he said. 'Really, give it up. It's disgusting.'

He might as well have tried ripping off a fingernail.

This is not any old T-shirt. This is my blankie, my binkie, my raggy, baggy, smelly, soft old companion.

It's 15 years old, is mainly light pistachio green, with blodges of the palest minty white (bleach damage), streaks of charcoal (scorch marks from several irons) and spatters of muddy sludge (ancient olive oil spatters and boerewors stains). It has tattered sleeves, several moth holes, a big rip over one sleeve, a few cigarette burn-marks, and a meandering hemline. It's at least twice as wide as it is long, and its cotton is a soft and light as a whisper. You could roll up the whole T-shirt and pass it through the eye of a needle.

You can launder my green T-shirt a thousand times over and not dislodge any of its perfume. It smells like my life. It smells like my feather pillow, like a loaf of hot bread, like breast milk, like all the puppies I've ever owned, like the skin on the nape of my daughter's neck. There are top notes of coffee, old brown sherry, love-making, camp fires, beach sand, cotton sheets, waterfalls and nicotine. It has the faintest whiff of sardine bait (I wear it when I go fishing at the beach) and a distinct aroma of fresh compost (it's my gardening shirt).

This is a T-shirt of note. It's a legend. It's the world's skankiest, shabbiest, ugliest, loveliest T-shirt.

Help save my T-shirt.

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1 comment:

meggie said...

I have an old cardigan- remember those?? -like that. It really resembles a severly wounded &/or dying dog, & there is just nothing so comforting, in the whole world.