Shirt Happens

I have never been a sentimental person, so Mom took it upon herself to be sentimental on my behalf.

During my teen years, she and I would have the same conversation over and over again:

“Do you want to keep this?” Mom could be holding up pretty much anything – a toy, a vacation souvenir, an article of clothing, my high school yearbook.

It didn’t matter what it was, my answer was always the same. “No. Throw it out.”

“Throw it out?” Mom would be aghast. “No! You should keep it.”

“But I don’t want it.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You just don’t know you want it,” Mom would say. “I’ll keep it for you.”

“Don’t keep it for me,” I’d say. “I don’t want it. If you want it, keep it for you.”

At this point in the conversation, Mom would take the unwanted item in question and leave the room. In her mind the matter was settled. “I’m keeping it for you.”

“But I don’t want it!” I’d shout.

“Oh, don’t be dumb,” Mom would call back. “There’s too much dumbness in this family. I don’t need more of it.”

And that would be that. Mom would put the thing in the attic or the basement and I’d sort of forget about it.

These days, I am living through the second part of Mom’s Master Plan. Whenever she visits my house, she bears gifts. Gifts from my distant past.

And, suddenly, I’m 18 again. “I don’t want it!”

“Yes, you do,” Mom replies. “And even if you don’t, it’s yours and you’re dealing with it.”

After Mom leaves, I often toss her stuff onto the charity pile. But other times – more often than I care to admit – I hear myself saying, “Oh, cool!”

And, in the twinkling of an eye, I’m stuck with more crap in my house.

One such “Oh, cool!” moment happened when Mom arrived with a bag of clothes. None of them fit me, of course, that’s why they were all packed away. My son, however, now has more pajama shirts than he knows what to do with.

The first item in the Mike Allegra Fall Pajama Shirt Collection can be seen at the top of this post. It is a retro t-shirt commemorating my sixth grade graduating class. What makes this design especially retro is that almost every student signature is in cursive writing. Remember cursive? I miss it.

See? My handwriting was lovely!

The next item is a silkscreen I made in Advanced Art class. I thought it would be fun to draw Oliver North, not because I had strong opinion about the Iran Contra Affair, but because I thought Oliver North would be easy to draw. And he was!

Someday, when my son testifies before Congress, I’ll be so proud!

Then there’s this shirt.

A perfect catchphrase for carnivorous plants and/or tween boys.

When I was a senior in high school, the drama department selected Little Shop of Horrors for the spring musical. I was cast as the voice of Audrey II, a man-eating plant. It was the best role in the world. While everyone else in the cast was busting their butts on stage trying to hit their marks, I was in the wings standing at a microphone, getting the biggest laughs, singing the best songs, and generally blowing the roof offa the joint. No makeup, no blocking, no choreography.

This was my costume for the curtain call. And despite doing far less than anyone else, I got the biggest round of applause. Mwah-ha-ha.

The final item in the Mike Allegra fall collection is not a suitable pajama shirt, but it’s still something that made me say “Oh, cool.”

In a previous blog post, I wrote that I take souvenirs from every job I’ve ever held. Well, once upon a time, I worked at a now defunct supermarket named Grand Union.

Here’s the proof:

May I help you?

Just look at that stitching! I don’t know what I will ever do with this thing, but I can’t get rid of it any time soon. It’s too classy.

So, Mom, you were right. As usual. I didn’t know I wanted this stuff. But I do. And I’m grateful.

But, Mom? I’m begging you. Please STOP!

71 Replies to “Shirt Happens”

  1. *Gasp* I’m doing the same thing to my kids. I thought it would make for a brilliant and much appreciative Christmas present if I framed one of the many pieces of art I saved over the many years of their school career. Umm–no. I now have a nicely framed glitter fish on my hall wall from youngest progeny. I think I got an exasperated “What the?!?” From middlster. The daughter always polite, gave a gracious “thank you” –I have yet to see it hanging up anywhere. So what’s a Mom to do with those precious commodities of her offspring? To throw them out is bit like designating said child to trash heap. Angst, Mike. Parental angst. This time I’m rooting for your mom.

    1. Yeah, if someone gave me a framed piece of my own art, I’d probably do the “What the…?” as well. I love it when people think my work is frame-worthy, but I’m never in the market to acquire such a thing.

      The irony is that what you did was really thoughtful. It shows how much YOU value your kids’ work.

      On a related note, you don’t need to root for my mom. She always wins.

  2. I have BOXES of stuff like that. Report cards, artwork, sports stuff, awards. BABY CLOTHES!! (my ‘kids’ are 36, 32, 29..oops) But I enjoy going back through it. And now that the 3 of them have given me 10 g’kids between them, they will understand. Look at this stuff? And throw it. But enjoy the memories first.

  3. I think we’re the opposite with our kids. We want to reduce the chaos piles in our house, and they keep saying “but I want that!” to every piece of paper that they doodled on to rubber bands to who knows what.

  4. Your mom is just so cool and fun and rock solid. I could have learned lessons from her. Instead, when I asked my kids (in college, when we were moving from one side of the country to the other) if they wanted me to keep any of their stuff — art work, report cards, extra credit reports on the Hawaiian sea turtle, pottery ashtrays (and no, no one smoked in the family), embroidered pillow cases (one disastrous sewing class), lanyards (many successful summer camps), costume jewelry, 12-set series of children’s hardback books on Values — they both shouted emphatically, “NO!” So I got rid of most of it. Cried while I did so – didn’t they have any great memories of those times, didn’t they care about their childhood? Race half a decade past their college graduations. Daughter’s boyfriend becomes her husband, son’s girlfriend becomes his wife, babies start arriving. And guess what both of my “kids” ask for? “Hey mom, will you send me my old ___ ____ ______ (fill in the blank).” And now I’M the heartless non-caring member of the family who didn’t save their precious crooked black and blue ashtray or the yellowed pillow case.
    Like I said, your mom is brilliant.

    1. My mom’s strength, I think, is that she already knows the correct answer to every question she asks. She only asks the question as a kind of courtesy; she wants you to believe that free will exists, which is thoughtful, I suppose. If you answer her questions incorrectly, however, she will ignore your wishes and bide her time until she can prove herself correct.

      As for your situation, in future I would recommend drawing up Throw-This-Crap-Away Consent Forms for your kids to sign. This will shift the blame back onto your kids if they start whining. “You told me to throw it away,” your can announce in sanctimonious triumph. “And I have PROOF!”

  5. Hahahaa, my Mom does the same. Turns out my little one loves all my junk from my past, too.
    I guess you just found your Halloween Costume for this year! If you put some zombie makeup or anything not appealing to general human beings, you should be golden.

      1. And they will roll with their eyes if you are taking to much time sorting out your change, looking for the right coins. While they are rolling their eye, one eye will fall out in front of you. You get scared and out of reflex snip it from the table.

  6. I love the Grand Union vest – perfect for Christmas! You just need a green fedora with a feather. Hopefully, mom has one of those in her stash. She better get it over to you soon. I’m have a bit of that “I’ll save it for you” too. My poor daughter keeps telling me that she isn’t ready yet for the 185 bins and boxes of her stuff.

    1. When I was a toddler, Mom did dress me up in a little matching trench coat and fedora. And the fedora had, if memory serves, a small peacock feather poking from the brim.

      Growing up in the 1970s was a form of child abuse.

  7. Oh my, your son looks just like you, minus the beard! This is a good start on Erma Brombeck, which begins Dec. 2017. Just a friend reminder. I boxed up dolls, favorite autographed books, trolls and horses my daughter might want to share with a daughter. So far no grandchildren. It must be a mom thing and their stacked in air tight containers in a spare bedroom closet.

    1. I’m beginning to think you’re getting a commission on that Erma Bombeck competition!

      But don’t worry, I’ll enter, I’ll enter — even though it violates my Never-Pay-Entry-Fees Policy.

      That’s how much I like you, Patricia; I am willing to pay an entry fee to do what you ask of me.

  8. You have created a mom-ster!!! I’m a type of mom that is the opposite of your mom. I still ask the question. But as soon as my people say that they do not want “it”, I immediately throw “it” away in the handy-dandy black trash bag that is right beside the sorting pile. If I don’t see it, I can’t re-claim it. Wha-la!!

  9. I’ve been ‘that mom’ and the only mistake I made was giving the boxes to my son before he was settled into his own home, so I haven’t asked, but I think they are now living in a land fill. He doesn’t know it, but I saved a box or two and I’m waiting for the right moment to share with him. Now I’m building a stash of art work courtesy my two grandsons, and I might have to move into a larger home. Or rent a storage unit. Your son is a terrific model for your t-shirt collection, and I agree with Diana. The Grand Union vest has the holidays written all over it!

    1. I must grudgingly admit that my mom’s timing was impeccable. She didn’t dump my old stuff on me until I had gotten my house just the way I wanted it.

      It would’ve been a lot easier for me to throw my old stuff away if I was, say, in the middle of renovating my basement. I’d say something dismissive like “I can’t deal with this crap,” and get rid of it without a second thought.

  10. I actually really like that Feed Me! shirt. And that is definitely the role I would want in Little Shop of Horrors. 🙂
    I’m pretty sentimental, but also not at all. I tend to hold onto stuff…until I decide to get rid of one thing while cleaning. Then I start getting rid of lots of things. It’s odd.

    1. Oh, Erik, if you can wrestle your voice into an Audrey II register, I could not recommend the role more highly.

      As for purging, I did that, too. There was a point when I was 13 or 14 where I decided to get rid of anything and everything that I deemed “childish”. So, pfft, all my toys were given away without a second thought. Once I hit my mid-twenties I wanted many of those same toys back.

  11. My girls tells me to start downsizing and get rid of all the “memories” I collected over the years. On the other hand, I usually get groans when I present my treasures to them. I had so few things from my childhood, that I actually thought they would be thrilled – – not so much. I’ll continue to pass them along, and they can feel free to dispose of them.

  12. When we cleaned out my mom’s study, she had an entire file cabinet filled with folders with our names on them. old birthday cards, maps, report cards, newspaper articles, you name it. And then there were the boxes of stuff. You have my deepest sympathies. But the shirts? Your mom was on to something. THOSE were worth keeping. 😀

  13. This is hilarious to me because as a mom I have done the same thing with my kids. And they react the same way you did. No, I don’t want it. No, don’t save it. My youngest’s wife won’t let him keep anything if he was inclined. She’s right there saying no, we don’t want it. And of course then he can’t take it. lol
    I’m kind of a sentimental person so some things I hate to throw away.
    The tee shirts are great though!
    Not so sure about the work vest… Perhaps it could be made into a quilt someday, which is what some people do with old t-shirts.
    Thanks for a fun look at one of life’s guaranteed scenarios. 🙂

  14. We all love your mom for allowing us the opportunity to see you in that red vest! Ugh, brings back memories of terrible uniforms I had to wear for work. I had something similar when I worked at Sam’s Club, but it was bright blue. That whole “Ask me, I’m here to help” regalia is criminal. I salute you!

  15. I have a shirt from college and another one from high school…. and that is saying something since that was 36 years ago! Yes yes.. I’m old! But sometimes, you just don’t know you want it until you have a chance to want it again?? Maybe? Kudos to mom! 😉

  16. Ohhhh This is exactly what’s been going on in my life for the past 40 years. I save, no one wants what I save. But now I’m trying to declutter my space, the saved stuff gets given to the original owner. Sometimes, like you’ve found they are delighted I saved it for them. Other times, I’m sure it goes right in the trash. And that doesn’t bother me. I would have thrown it away myself if I had the strength. I passed a folder of paper memorabilia from my youngest son’s life, to him a couple weeks ago. Later he called and told me, he remembered being a much better student than his report cards showed. Ha! My oldest said, he enjoyed looking through his paper “stuff” and thanked me for saving it for him. I don’t know what the middle child thought about all of it, but I had a few photos in his of him with his grandpa and he loved that.
    I think I’m going to donate their baby blankets to a shelter for domestic violence victims.
    Another great blog post, Mike!

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