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Small Wonders:

The memories clothes hold

January 02, 2010|By Patrick Caneday

The guayabera shirt and linen pants purchased solely for that trip to Mexico before Baby No. 1 arrived eight years ago?

Surely, they’ll fit again when we go back after the kids graduate high school. OK, college? Yeah, you’re right. Give them away.

The plain Dickies work shirt worn only in my annual Indiana Jones Halloween costume? The Brooklyn Dodgers throwback jersey I wear only during the playoffs? Keep them, but store until next year, along with my lack of costume creativity and my World Series dreams.


There’s that frail green flannel shirt whose better days are motes in the lint traps of so many dryers since that road trip in 1994. It’s been years since I wore it, but she congers the memories of campfires and southwest sunsets every time I look at her. From the farthest corner of the sock drawer I pull one wool hiking sock, its partner long gone but not the visions of that muddy, precipitous trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 1999 with the woman who would become my wife.

I’ve held on to these items this long fearing that to lose them, to give them away, would be to forsake that which made them so important. I fear that the memory will fade into darkness if I don’t have that physical item to hold, to touch, to smell. I can’t lose them.

Deep in the last drawer of this now empty dresser I find a tiny hearing aid battery. And I am reminded, yes, this dresser belonged to grandma. And suddenly it’s February and I am sitting in her room one last time; her peaceful, lifeless body resting before me, having finally given up its fight.

I wonder where she is now. Is she holding something that I’ve thrown away, clutching at memories like smoke rings?

“No,” she whispers. “I’m enjoying my ice cream soda, watching the sunset. Driving down the long, long roads. Walking the dusty trails.” She’s home.

I put the flannel and the sock in the pile to go. I throw the hearing aid into the trash.

Gone, but never forgotten. And I’m left with so much more than a shirt or a sock, furniture and a battery.

Each year is merely a dresser drawer storing all the years before it. And this coming year will be the same, for all its brilliant, exciting and frightening differences.

It’s amazing what you can fit in a hobo’s knapsack as you prepare for the long journey ahead, knowing that the most important things take up the least amount of space.

So pack light.

Get in touch PATRICK CANEDAY is happy, very happy. And he hopes you are too. He may be reached at

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