My Story in Ts

Memory is not just a when, recalled in the now. The past is never just the then, a form, an event, a life, that had an essence in a span of something before. Memory is a pulse, coursing through all dimensions of life, like an echo hidden deep inside a mountain, it returns again, and again, as long as there is a resonant body to contain it. The past never leaves this place, where stories are etched into stone, inked onto pulp, intoned into minds, an energy passing through bodies that create substance from visions, sounds, throats, lips, hands. Memories are the lingering traces of sensational vibrations that tremor through bodies, canyons, and cathedrals, unbound by time.

I never expected to find a mountain when I got dressed this morning. I was hoping to find a comfortable underlayment I could wear braless, dressed-up with a cardigan from a drawer I hadn’t opened since the thermometer dipped below 30º F. Opening the cedar chest, hoping for a cover that wouldn’t show my nakedness, I discovered, instead, the story of my life, woven in Ts.

  • There’s the blue and pink tie-dye “Cherry Garcia” T – from the time I took the boys to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, VT. We were spending the summer at my fiancé’s Vermont home. We were ordered to leave the house when he had child visitation.
  • The black “Feel the Music” T – I purchased to support the New York City artists who provided a creative space for healing through music for families affected by 9/11. They gave instrument lessons to my boys from 2003-2008, friendships and connections that continue today.
  • The white “USTA Vermont Tennis 2013 State Champions” T – Dylan wore in the Summer Team tennis program in 10th-grade.
  • The plum “Mohonk Mountain House” T – from the first, and last child-free October birthday weekend Dave and I had in 1999, for my 36th birthday.
  • The pink “Bear Spring Camps” T – from the last summer (2016) we had on the Maine lake together as a family of five, before the blended family disbanded.
  • The violet “New York University Mom” T – bought at the University gift shop during Dylan’s student orientation, in 2015.
  • The tangerine “Dog Days of Summer T – from the event to support local dog parks, July 2012. Joni won her first distance disc-dog event.
  • The white “Jones Beach” T – I purchased at the Field 4 Bath house in 2002. The boys were 5 and 9.
  • The white “Whistle Stop” T – from a friend’s shop in Delaware, where I visited after dropping Davin off at JFK for his Mexican detox rehab treatment, en route to visit my sister in Maryland, September, 2018.
  • The “2011 Taco Bell” tennis tournament T – the year Davin won doubles 18’s.
  • The navy and gold “Essex High School Band” T – Davin wore for high school pep band at football games.
  • The orange and royal blue “Mets” T – Davin wore in his final year of little league in 2005. He was 12. On the back, our name is printed above his favorite number “12”.
  • The grey and orange “Mets 2015 National League Championship” T – Davin and I watched all the season games together. He got tickets to a World Series game for himself and his brother. His racing demeanor, and lateness to the gate, punctuated his mental health spiral. I recall feeling happy that the boys were doing something fun together, then sad when Dylan reported the reality of the day.
  • The black “Training for Warriors” T – I earned in 2017, The spring I decided to get in shape near the end of my crumbling marriage, Davin returned home besieged by addictions, and my sister with three kids took a nine-month refuge in the virulent sanctum.
  • The teal “Ski Big Sky, MT” T – from the February, 2013 break trip I took Richard, Dylan and I to ski, and snowmobile through Yellowstone.
  • The midnight blue “Le Massif” T – from our 2011 Quebec ski trip. We stood atop a Northern Hemisphere peak and took our photo upon a trail that tumbled down into the sea at the icy mouth of the St. Lawrence River. I remember the feeling of being on top of the world. We also visited the Ice Hotel and swam in a rooftop pool under a crescent moon in Quebec City.
  • The navy “US OPEN 2004” T – Davin got when Daniel Burgess took a group of Freeport Indoor Tennis kids to the US Open Kids Day, at the National Tennis Center in Queens, NY.
  • The navy T – with the American flag-impression peace sign on the chest I purchased, with four other T’s, for our new blended family of five to wear on the 4th of July, 2003, weekend at the Mount Washington Hotel. We spread out on a blanket under the spray of cannon fire and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Davin’s favorite orchestral symphony.
  • The hot pink “Vail” T – from the week-long ski vacation with Davin and cousins in Colorado, in Feb 2016.
  • The purple “Yale University” T – from a three-day weekend in New Haven, CT, May 2012. Davin was in a wildcard draw for the US Open. His personal coach, Raul, was there, coaching and feeding practice balls. It was a nice weekend for us. I remember we found a great little Japanese restaurant and had the best chirashi, loaded with pickled vegetables. Davin won the first two rounds, lost in the third. On the last night, a social worker called to inform me that my sister, L., had a public mental health crisis, and was taken to a psychiatric hospital by police. After returning home from Yale, I drove 370 miles to Long Island to attend a 10 AM patient intake meeting.
  • There’s the lemon cream “Alaska” T – with tiny flowers embroidered across the chest, from our wonderous adventure cruise through Alaska, and a day-long train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Whistler. We helicoptered to a glacier, filled 10-year-old Dylan’s pockets with rocks so he could zipline along the Bering Sea, boated into the bay with Orca’s, and white water rafted in Denali. In Whistler BC, we scaled wooden catwalks in a temperate rainforest through miles of ziplines through the canopy, took a private jeep tour up the Coast Mountains to observe bear families, and licked fresh gelato for days.
  • The “Beltran Mets” T – I wore to Puerto Rico for Davin and Shina’s high school graduation trip. The hotel staff cheered for the Commonwealth icon ironed on my back. We hiked the El Yunque National Rain Forest, kayaked in a phosphorescent lagoon and ate alcapurría on a street in Fajardo. From a private charter, we reeled in mahi-mahi and yellowfin, and dove into the Caribbean Sea, finishing the evening dining on sushi I sliced in our cliff house kitchen, to the call of the coqui.
  • The sky-blue “CUBA” T – from the magical Afro-Latin Jazz Band bus tour Rich and I joined with family friends in the band, in December, 2016. The trip Rich said he always dreamt of taking. The trip where an iron curtain ran the length of the Queen bed at the Melia Habana. Davin took the trip in December, 2012.
  • The Navy “International Women’s Writer’s Guild” T – from the first summer conference I attended, in July 2019. A turning point in my life, where I met a new tribe of supportive women writers, encouraging me to write my stories, weeks after my divorce.
  • The grey “Urbanfetch” T – my late husband, Dave, got for being a frequent customer of the pre-Instacart dot.com start-up that delivered food and sundries, to Manhattan boomers, c.1999. I recall him raving about the new service that ran his errands and delivered fresh chocolate chip cookies to his office on the 97th floor of One World Trade Center.
  • The white “Microsoft” T – Dave got on the last professional conference he attended in May 2001. It was the first trip he took solo, in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” He pedaled a rented bike for twenty miles to rent a jet ski before taxiing to the airport, on the final day. He (being legally blind) had a difficult time navigating in a remote location without the ability to drive, nor access to public transportation. He said he’d never travel alone again. The boys and I greeted him in the airport baggage claim. We were so excited to bring him home.
  • The slate grey “Daniel Burgess Turkey Trot tennis T – worn to hit balls on the November day of his 66th birthday, sixty days after he out-breathed into his eternal sleep. Davin composed a ballad to compliment the video tribute I created on Oct, 26th, 120-hours before narcotizing his own breath.

Ts cover my skin in close-fitting threads, interwoven fibers opening to hug my curves and edges, relics where extremities intersect spine, I validate myself into a future where I’ll no longer exist. I’ve worn the souvenirs like badges stitched on a Girl Scout sash, draped over my torso, shoulder to waist, decorating the space within two planes diverging from a common seam.

But it’s not the collected souvenirs folded into the drawer that I wanted all those years, but validation. Because the relics extended me into the evolution of something worthy of remembering and therefore seen. It was that very ceaselessness that I wanted to return to, belong to, again and again.

It’s no accident that the “T” resembles a beam. That angle of supporting strength that holds up bodies across an expanse too wide to bear the load. We’re all inside this house, saying with our angled, load-bearing selves, more, more, more.

I want to insist that our being alive is impressive enough to be worthy of continuation. And so-what, if all I accomplished in my life was providing supportive strength to hold up more bodies.

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