It shames me to admit this, but there is something that I hoard. I have a huge supply, accumulated over the years, that is carefully hidden and guarded for preservation and future use. My closet bulges with them and I treasure every single one. My comfort clothes are a portrait of who I really am.
I have more than 100 T-shirts — some that go back at least 30 years — carefully stacked on the shelves. And hanging just beneath them is a total closet rod full of pants to accompany the shirts. The wide variety of sizes reflects my journey and struggle from being hugely overweight as a young adult, to where I am now, struggling to maintain a late-middle-age healthy body mass index.
But just the other day, I heard a guy on TV use the phrase “comfort clothes,” and a light went on in my head as I realized that they are an important part of my life. Why? ... I began to ask myself. Why do I take up some of the space in my life for this collection of polyester and cotton? And the answers I jotted down as I began to think about it were interesting to uncover.
I love this collection because each piece carries with it memories that I cherish of places I’ve traveled to and adventures I’ve experienced. As a camper, many of the shirts are emblazoned with the names of states I’ve been to and tourist icons I’ve seen. Knowing my love for such shrines, over the years my kids have gifted me with shirts they feel reflect my personality and what I treasure. Pictures of grandchildren and “sayings” they know will make me laugh adorn many of the shirts in the carefully folded piles.
But I love my comfort clothes for other reasons as well — each equally important. I love the soft feel and the fit of well-used articles of apparel. And I’ll candidly admit that up until last week, I had several pairs of pants that were now too big for me but represented my life-long struggle to lose weight, and so I held on to them. But after thinking about why I save such things, I decided to let them comfort someone else, so I donated them to the Nearly New Shop.
And I’ve realized that because I love the fit, the softness, the texture and the memories of much of what I put on daily, I wear things out. I’ve noticed that the waistbands of several pairs of pants are frayed beyond fixing. The “sore spots” of these trousers are telling me that it’s time to let go. And so I have decided to be brave and bid them goodbye.
Don’t get me wrong; I have dresses, too, that hang in my closet. I just almost never wear them since I’ve retired. I have the dresses that I wore to each of my children’s weddings, and dresses and pant-suits that carried me through much of my work life. And just last year I gave my wedding dress to the Nearly New Shop. After relaxing for 50 years in all of my various closets ensconced in tall and zippered plastic protection, I decided it was time to give it a new life as someone else’s treasure. I guess comfort comes from different places sometimes. After decades of storage, I decided to share with someone else the love and happiness that dress represents. Since it was the wrong size for my daughter and daughters-in-law, I passed the comfort on to strangers.
But I’m not finished collecting comfort. I still have plenty of room on the shelves for what is yet to come. And I’m planning to continue to add to my closet memoirs for as long as I live.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”