All my favourite clothes have holes. That is a statement I never thought I would say in a million years!
I enjoy dressing nice. The joke at work is that I’ve never worn the same dress twice. A child’s mom wrote in a Christmas card to me that her daughter always talks about how I’m a fantastic teacher and also how much she loves my outfits! ha! Still, although I may like to dress up it is so very true that my favourite clothes are in rough shape. Because, well, it’s not about the clothes. I actually don’t care about the clothes at all.
Last year I opened up the closet that use to belong to Mike with the intention of cleaning out his clothes. I couldn’t do it. At the time, everything was him. I couldn’t get rid of him so I couldn’t get rid of his clothes. The two felt too strongly attached. I shut the closet and left it for an undetermined time. This past summer I worked myself up to try again. Anticipating I’d feel the same way about wanting to keep everything I bought many storage boxes. I wasn’t getting rid of him, I was simply moving him. I thought of all the expensive shirts I had bought him and all the golf shirts he owned. Surely I would want to keep them. To my surprise, I opened that closet for a second time and saw it completely differently. No, I did not want the fancy dress shirts that I thought he looked so handsome in. I didn’t want the dressy sweaters that I made sure were kept in pristine condition. I didn’t even want the many golf shirts. I walked in with maybe five empty storage boxes and I finished cleaning out the closet with only one box mostly full. Can you guess what I filled that one box with? Yup, it was the clothes with holes.
It was the old sweater that had holes from embers from sitting around the campfire at the cottage.
It was the discoloured bathing suit that he wore on pretty much every vacation of ours because he didn’t think he needed a new one.
It was the plaid jacket that we bought together when we first started dating that he wore in seemingly, all seasons.
It was the comfy sweatpants that are all tattered at the bottom that he wore when we were sitting around talking and relaxing.
It’s the baseball cap with the sweat marks that he refused to take off and managed to work into the majority of his days.
It’s the t-shirts from the beer cases and that he picked up from snowboarding trips that made him laugh and that he felt most himself in.
It’s the stretched out, faded sweater that he loved but let me borrow to paint furniture in, and that he said I looked, “so cute” in.
It’s the two dress shirts that, despite a large collection bought by me, he wore to any occasion that he felt mattered.
As I looked at the small box of things I decided to keep, I laughed. They weren’t the items I anticipated on keeping. Mike would have laughed at me too; it was most of the items that I didn’t like when he was here. But, it wasn’t about the clothes. The clothes are not him and try as I might, by keeping clothes that once belonged to him I still cannot keep him. What I chose to keep were the memories. The campfires, the jokes, the trips, the experiences we had together. I kept the few worn out things that he wore constantly that we made our life memories in together. Those are the items I chose to keep. No, even those things are not him but they make me smile when I see them for the thoughts they trigger of our time together and his smiling face that I envision.
People, thankfully, cannot be mimilized into things. When we are gone, the fancy things in our lives are just that; things. They are not us. No one dies and gets remembered for the nice shirt they wore, the expensive car they had, the big house they owned. And if someone is remembered that way, is that really the way they want to be remembered? I certainly do not. The things don’t matter. What matters is the memories we made with the people we love. The way we made others feel. The laughs we shared and the support we offered. The impact we had and the legacy we left. Sure, enjoy the things that make you happy (I do still enjoy dressing up) but recognize them for what they are and their limitations. A string of material objects alone probably isn’t going to be worth remembering.
As we finish the Christmas season and I put away many gifts I am reminded that the gifts in themselves are not what matters. What matters is that I’m surrounded by so many people that love me. That’s why the gifts exist; not the other way around. In a few years I may not remember who gave me what but I will remember the people and the times we had together. I will remember Mike, smiling in his stained baseball cap, frayed sweater, and ripped sweatpants holding my hand throughout his life and choosing to spend his precious time with me. That is what matters.