It’s December’s goodbye and unlike the months that precede it, when it ends, so does the year. All the bad behaviors I swore I’d change in 2014 will have to wait till 2015 or maybe later. After all, there’s no perfect time to lose ten pounds – and it’s wasteful to begin my healthy eating regime before the Christmas cookies are gone. Instead, I’m taking on the promise of a clean-out, by emptying a basement closet. (You’d be surprised how silently original bell bottoms can hide in the back of a closet.)
After my basement purge, I marched upstairs to rid my dresser of my ratty tees and sweat pants. Bleached bombed, unraveled clothing went into a trash bag. I was going clean! 2015 would find me fit and in matching active wear. But, then I saw my South Korea 2002 soccer shirt. (I mean I really saw it; faded and with two strategically placed holes-one under the arm and the other where a pasty would go-if ever I decided to wear one. When did my treasure become trash? A beloved thing is hard enough to let go when it has one terrific memory attached to it. This darn shirt has three; including one memory a half century older than the shirt. (Now you have to look at the image-I can’t spend all day describing the mask.)
We had moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn when I was in middle school. It was winter and the walk home from school seemed endless without a friend to talk to. My memory draws a bleak sketch in grey and black; one store along the avenue no more inviting than another, till I reached a corner shop that was aglow in fiery reds and gold. A Japanese woman, (I didn’t innately realize her country of origin-she wore a kimono,) was hanging a sign in her window and asked for my help. It was exciting to be in a shop with beautiful silks and colorful accessories. She asked if I would stop by every school day to watch the store while she ran errands. I was so honored to be trusted, I didn’t ask for payment. One day she offered me a necklace with a devilish mask pendant. I wore it every day for many years, much to the annoyance of my parents who weren’t religious, but knew a pagan idol when they saw it. By the time I moved on to high school, it had crumbled from age. The next time I saw that familiar devil face was on a tee shirt supporting Korea in the world cup. I had to have it. I was teaching then and a group of my favorite students offered to bring me one. Russell, the most intrepid, won my heart with the shirt. Bright red with the same devil mask as the Japanese lady gave me when I was Russell’s age. I took it as a lucky omen. Truly, goodness and mercy should follow me all my days, now that I had my shirt. Amazingly it did, the next year I became Educational envoy to Korea. In Itaewan, I found many renditions of my mask as if my shirt had sent me there. At home, I wore it every time I exercised—which is after holidays and before weddings. That’s probably why it lasted as long as it did. Sadly even ‘lucky shirts’ must die and mine was on its way. Too chock full of memories to toss—too tattered to donate, I allowed it a resting place in a bottom drawer. Its rest is over—a new year is coming –time to throw away bad habits, old grudges and ratty tees. I am born again—actually, I’m using this blog to keep my shirt forever—by image and verse. It feels good to move on--and better to keep the memories.