Friday, November 12, 2004

Comfort Shirt

Anyone else have a "security blanket"? I have my comfort shirt. It's an old red and gray, quilt-lined flannel shirt that's literally falling apart at the seams, and it's probably the most comfortable piece of clothing in my non-extensive wardrobe.

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to get rid of this shirt, but it's like an old friend to me. I'd never wear it outside of the house; it's that ratty looking. But on a chilly, rainy night it keeps me warm.

Sure, I have other shirts that would do the same thing. There's at least two in my closet that family members have bought me over the years - both with quilted linings, and they're not falling apart. But neither of them fit me like my comfort shirt. They're not broken in. The collar isn't half hanging off. I have to button up the sleeves for the arms to fit right. And both are too heavy.

I make this same argument every year with my family. "Why," they ask despondently, "do you continue to wear that ratty thing? It smells. It's falling apart. Ya can't wash the age out of it anymore."

Maybe that's the point. Even though I pulled a linear hunk of fabric off of it while I was sitting here at the computer tonight, the shirt is history to me. It's got paint splotches on it that date from the time I closed on my house 18 years ago and took a roller to the living room walls. The flannel smells like me. The arm length fits me as perfectly and keeps me as warm today as it did nearly 20 years ago. It's part of who I am every fall and winter.

Yep, the color is way faded. The shirt can't be worn in polite company, but then, when was family ever considered "polite company"? I supposed I've faded a bit, too, but I hope that doesn't make me any less warm as a person than I was back when I had a bit more hair on my head.

Right now, I need something that connects me with the past, and probably more than anything that's why I hang onto this stupid shirt. We all have something that connects us to our personal past, and in a larger sense, to our collective past. Maybe we're hanging onto a time that never was...except in our own consciousness.

Then again, maybe we're holding onto the hope that what we once envisioned for the future, in the halcyon days of our youth, will somehow come to pass. Either way, it's funny (or disgusting, from my wife's perspective regarding the shirt) how we can hang onto those things that define our past. Yet if you think about it, isn't that what "comfort" is all about?

Old shirts. Family. Friends. The well-worn signs that guide and/or ground us in reality; the ties that bind, regardless of the adversity that we face every day.