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Old, Comfortable, Flannel
I cannot do it. I absolutely cannot throw out a clean sock just because it has a hole in it. It’s a waste of soap and water, not to mention my labor and the senseless wear and tear on the laundry machines. Because it’s clean, I feel obligated to wear it one more time, then discard the worn-out sock when it’s dirty…that is, if I remember.
This oddity of mine goes beyond socks. I’ll openly admit: I have a few “garment attachment” issues – okay, maybe I have a lot of them. My wife has pointed out my inability to throw away old, worn out, damaged or faded clothing. Rather than addressing the problem and seeking a resolution, I find it much easier to head straight into denial. In an attempt to justify my bad habit, I’ll declare, “I can wear this as a work shirt,” or, “This will make a good rag.” The other day I had a fabric experience that gave me a real scare.
We had company coming for the weekend and I needed to prepare the guest bedroom for them. Flannel bedsheets are really nice and cozy in the winter months, but it was time to replace them with regular cotton sheets, for the milder spring days ahead. I set the decorative pillows, with shams that match the quilted bedspread, on the chair in the corner. I pulled off the pillow cases and tossed them into the laundry basket.
I removed the bedspread, folding it neatly and placing it on the chair. When I tried to take off the brown fleece blanket, it clung to the top sheet. The two pieces were stuck together. Grabbing a corner of the flannel sheet in my left hand and the edge of the blanket in my right, I would separate them so I could put the sheet in the laundry basket. I lifted my arms like an Olympic swimmer doing the breast stroke, I yanked the two pieces in opposite direction. That’s when the incident occurred.
“Sweet Mother Mary, Joseph and Jesus, save me!” I was nearly electrocuted! Bang, bang, bang, snap, snap, pop, pop, pop, crack, crack… Hundreds of little bluish-white static sparks flew wildly, every other one striking me, creating a racket that sounded like the Fourth of July and I was screaming like a girl. I honestly thought someone lit a whole package of firecrackers, tossing it at my feet as a prankster would do to his buddies.
The noise scared my dog, June. She went scurrying down the hallway with her tail tucked in between her legs. When the fireworks settled, I inspected the blanket for burn marks or possible open flames. Not finding any, I walked to the living room. June was curled up safely in the leather chair with her head hanging over the edge of the cushion. “Get back in there and help me; you’re a dog, not a chicken. Act like it.” “No way, man,” she said, “I don’t get hazard pay. You’re on your own.”
I returned to the guest bedroom (alone) and carefully removed the remainder of flannel bedding. The static had gotten on me! Every hair on my arms, and most on my head, were drawn toward the bed, pointing toward that fleece blanket like it was magnetic. My T-shirt was sticking to my chest; my blue pajama pants were clinging to my legs. My whole body was fully charged. I was more than a little on edge. Each aftershock of static caused me to jump again, whether it popped me or missed.
With the flannel sheets in the basket, I walked to the master bedroom to check for anything else that could go in with this load of laundry. On the end of the bed were a few of my favorite flannel garments – two shirts and a pair of pajama pants. Throwing them into the basket, I laughed to myself. Women spent decades teaching men the proper way to do the wash; separating whites and colors, using hot or cold, etc., but I might be the first man in history to do a load of flannels only.
With the laundry basket on my hip, I started walking toward the basement. June was still sitting in the chair. “Do you want to come downstairs with me?” I asked her. Recognizing the scary, blue plaid flannel sheets that made all the sparks and noise, she declined.
At the washer, I turned the load size to extra-large; set the temperature to cold, pulled the knob outward to start the water flowing and added a capful of liquid detergent to the tub. While I waited for the soap to mix with the water, I took the green flannel shirt from the basket, holding it up and looking it over. Both sleeves were shredded near the elbows. The back and front both had various large holes and rips in them. I thought about throwing it away, but I could keep using it for a work shirt. Besides, it had sentimental value.
On my dresser there is a framed photo of Melissa and me. I was wearing that very green shirt, back when it was almost new. The shirt was one of the first gifts my wife gave me. I knew if I washed it, I wouldn’t throw it away until after I’d worn it again. “I don’t have to decide right now.” I said, then laid the shirt over my shoulder to take it back upstairs.
Next, I took the orange, plaid shirt from the basket, holding it up and looking it over. The color has faded, but overall, it was in pretty good shape, with just one or two small holes in the tail and some damage to the collar. I thought about throwing it away, but I still wear it, especially around campfires, when I don’t want a good shirt smelling like smoke. Besides, it had sentimental value.
One night I fell asleep in the papasan chair in the living room. Melissa was going to bed and didn’t want June, who was just young puppy at that time, roaming freely around the house. (She wasn’t fully potty trained yet. She, meaning June, not Melissa.) Melissa put June on her leash, then placed the loop of the leash over my foot and around my ankle, leaving the puppy with me. While I was sleeping, June hopped up in the chair, crawled up onto my shoulder and gnawed the collar on the back of my shirt. I was wearing that very orange plaid shirt. As I ran my hands over the chewed collar, I remembered it was a gift from my wife and one of my favorite shirts. I knew if I washed the shirt, I wouldn’t throw it away until after I’d worn it again. “I don’t have to decide right now.” I said, then threw the shirt over my shoulder with the green one, to take it back upstairs.
Next, I picked up the red plaid, flannel pajama pants. I held them up and looked them over. The fabric was worn so thin I could see daylight through it. The hems on both legs were tattered and there were a couple holes in the jammies. The seams were weak and even the cloth around the waistband was giving out, allowing the white elastic inside to show. The seat was blown out with about an eight or nine-inch tear. I thought about throwing them away, but I still wear them as long as I have on boxers, my derriere wasn’t showing. Besides, they had sentimental value.
That was the first pair of pajama pants my wife ever gave me. I knew if I washed them, I wouldn’t throw them away until after I’d worn them again. “I don’t have to decide right now.” I said, then flipped the pajama pants over my shoulder along with the two shirts to take them back upstairs.
Pulling the sheets from the basket, I could hear June snickering upstairs as they snapped and popped a few more times from static. “It’s not funny, dog!” I hollered toward the stairwell. I stuffed the sheets into the washer, positioning them evenly around the agitator. I gave final consideration to throwing in the garments that were draped over my shoulder. Old, worn flannel sure feels good to wear and it’s taken a dozen years to get these special articles of clothing to this level of satisfying comfort. “I don’t have to decide right now.” I said, then closed the lid on the washer and went upstairs.
In the master bathroom, I held up the two shirts and the pajama pants, looking them over one last time. “Sorry guys,” I said to the mass of flannel in my hands, “I think this is the end of the road for you.” I dropped the pajama pants into the trash can, then the green shirt and finally the orange shirt. The three pieces overflowed the top of the can. I turned off the bathroom light and said, “Farewell my good friends, it’s been a long, fun ride, but your journey has come to an end. Rest in peace.” I pulled the door shut, then went to the living room to sit with June. Together, we would mourn.
Thinking about what I had just done and not sure I felt very good about it, I was trying to convince myself, “You did the right thing, Tom. They were tired. It was time.” Suddenly, I jumped up and walked, with conviction, to the master bath. June followed close on my heels. I flung the door open and grabbed the orange flannel shirt from the top of the trash can. “This one still has plenty of life in it. I’ll be darned if I’m going to throw away a perfectly good shirt.”
I returned to the living room chair with my dog and my orange flannel shirt. Still second guessing my decision, I was thinking about the pajama pants and the green flannel shirt. They were about the same age and now deceased, laying together in a shallow, plastic grave. I also thought about the sheets I took off the bed and how much static energy they discharged. Wondering if there was any possible resurrection for the shirt and jammies, I considered Dr. Frankenstein and how he brought his deceased creature back to life with a charge from a bolt of lightning.
“Lightning is just a static discharge.” I told June, with a fleeting glimmer of hope in my voice. “Just like the sparks from the sheets – also a static discharge. It’s the same thing, albeit the voltage is substantially less than lightning.” June looked upon me with pity and compassion and said, “Dad, you’ve got to let go.” I pleaded my case, “But it worked for Dr. Frankenstein…” June interrupted me, “Frankenstein was just a movie. It wasn’t real.” “But...” June warned, “If you keep this up, Mom is going to have you committed, you know that, right?” I hung my head low, surrendering, “I know.”
Later, when I heard the buzzer sound off on the dryer, I went down and gathered the bedding. I decided I was going to put the flannel sheets back on the bed for our company coming on the weekend. The nights were still chilly and I’m sure they would appreciate sleeping on them. I began making the bed. I like working with warm sheets. T
hey smell so fresh and clean right out of the dryer. I put two dryer sheets in with them so, they were static free, too. Ahhh…
I stretched the fitted sheet over each of the four corners, smoothing out the wrinkles in the middle. Then I snapped and waved the top sheet, letting it settle gently over the mattress like a parachute. I gave it a few more light shakes for alignment until it was centered on the bed. I tucked the sheet under the foot of the mattress and began making my hospital corners, just like mom taught me when I was little. As I smoothed the first corner, I felt a lump underneath. I pulled the top sheet loose, lifting the elastic corner from the bottom sheet, to investigate.
“Would you look at that?” I said, with a big grin, as I removed a grey, athletic sock that was trapped inside. We know washing machines steal socks, but they rarely give one back. That sock wasn’t there when I put the load in the washer, so to find a lone sock in with the clean sheets? That was every bit as lucky as finding a four-leaf clover in the yard.
I knew there was another single grey sock in my dresser drawer. I held the sock up and looked it over. It had a small hole in the heel. Still smiling, I carried it to the master bedroom to reunite the two single socks, as one pair. Even though one sock had a hole in it, you can bet I wasn’t going to throw away a pair of perfectly good, clean socks – especially after the day I’d had!
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