T-Shirts, Strangers, & Fairey Godmothers

This is the story of a shirt.

Last weekend, I drove to Nashville to celebrate the graduation of one of my childhood best friends. We say that we became friends in the fourth grade over a Language Arts assignment that resulted in a “commercial” for silver shoes. I have no memory whatsoever of the context for this assignment, what the goals of the assignment were, nor if this was really our first act of friendship. Regardless, fourth grade is about when it all started.

This is the T-shirt I selected for my drive to Nashville.

When I got out of the car to give my friend a hug, the very first thing she said to me was, “I love that you’re wearing that T-shirt!”

Okay, so maybe she actually said, “I can’t believe you still have that T-shirt!”

What she meant was, “I can’t believe you still wear that T-shirt.”

You see, I like to wear this shirt. It’s fun, summery, and loud. The plasticky neon emblem in all its glittery glory is holding up remarkably well. I have, after all, had the T-shirt for at least fifteen years. When I glance back through photo albums and scrapbooks from high school, I am often wearing this T-shirt.

Or one of these.

I’d say it’s embarrassing, but it’s really not. Not to me.

I love these shirts, which are soft and smooth and wearing thin.

And while my friends may tease me about still wearing the same clothing I bought in high school (it wasn’t that long ago, people!), I think I’ll probably keep wearing them.

Here’s why: over the last fifteen years, they’ve turned into community builders for me.

No other items in my wardrobe, except perhaps my Hershey’s sweatshirt, get as many comments from perfect strangers as these shirts.

I should have anticipated this, since one of the first times I wore the St. Augustine shirt was to a concert, and after the concert, I was chatting with one of the local radio DJs. He asked me about going to St. Augustine. I’d never been, I told him, I just wear the shirt. Turns out he’d just gotten back from St. Augustine for his honeymoon.

I’m not making this up.

I have never been to St. Augustine, Florida, or to Virginia Beach, Virginia, but everyone who has ever been there manages to cross my path when I wear those shirts. (Furthermore, I have no idea what “hot tub stuffing is” though the back of the shirt suggests it was some sort of fund-raiser for the Ronald McDonald House, and I don’t drink the kind of rum being advertised on the “richer is better” shirt, or any kind of rum, quite frankly.)

But flight attendants, grocery store cashiers, fellow road-trippers in rest area bathrooms, college students, concert-goers–they’re all wanting to know if I’ve ever been to St. Augustine. Or Virginia Beach. Or Wheeling. Or wherever.

But especially St. Augustine. People who go there must really like it.

So I find myself mentally preparing for these encounters when I slip the T-shirt over my head in the morning. I hear myself saying, “Oh, it’s just an old shirt from high school.” And then they’ll ask a follow-up question, and I’ll say, “And when I bought it, it was already an old shirt.” And sometimes they’ll ask even more, and then I’ll say, “My brother and I used to shop at this vintage clothing store in Harrisburg called The Fairey Godmother.”

And that place is what this post is really about.

Stay tuned…

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5 comments on “T-Shirts, Strangers, & Fairey Godmothers

  1. elizabeth says:

    I really should talk to the people I blog about before I make the posts live.

    In this case, the friend described above says that she did actually say the first line–that she loved that I was wearing the shirt–and, what’s more, she really meant it.

    Thank you, friend.

  2. Liz's dad says:

    Great post. You and your brother always amazed me (maybe I should say BAFFLED me) with your choice of clothing but I think kids should baffle their parents in such good ways. Your time will come and I hope it is with the same delight I enjoyed watching you grow up!

  3. Jess Long says:

    Your Dad posted this on FB, so I read it. I find it funny how different a person’s perspective can be growing up. When I was around 12 (I think) my bust grew and grew so big that it was embarassing to me. Some women may think this is a blessing, but to me it was a bad thing right through my 20’s. As a result, T-shirts in general, but especially the ones that drew attention to that area, were despised by me, because of that attention. Many females I encountered disliked me just because of that and many boys I was around only seemed to want to look in that direction. So, I leared to layer and hide as best I could. I have absolutely no T-shirt stories to share because your average T-shirt was my enemy growing up. I was amused by your post, though, and part of me feels like I missed something here…

  4. Bonnie (Mom) says:

    Just another note on a different thought. Be proud you can still fit into a T shirt you have had for over 15 years!!!!!! Not everyone could say that!!!

  5. elizabeth says:

    Dad, I always appreciated that your attitude toward our clothing (or hair, or jewelry, or whatever) was always “If you do something stupid like dye your hair green, you’re the one who has to go around looking stupid.” You probably said it in a nicer way than that, but that’s the gist of it. It was good advice and somehow we knew not to abuse it… except for the retro clothes we wore.

    Jess, thanks for commenting. It’s an interesting perspective to share, and I’m glad you did. Certainly we all have been shaped (and our wardrobes have been shaped) by our figures! I hated wearing shorts or short-ish skirts, for instance, since I was so much taller than everyone else and felt really self-conscious. But I also didn’t want to wear long shorts (this was before capri pants would have been considered, and long skirts were frumpy). Then I saw the movie ‘Notting Hill,’ and Julia Roberts in all her glorious height wore skirts that were to her knee, and she looked gorgeous. I had a mini revelation: I can wear longer skirts and still be beautiful!

    Mom, good point! It helps that I was already a giant when I was in middle school, doesn’t it? I think I outgrew your shoes when I was in 5th or 6th grade.

    Thanks for the feedback, folks!

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