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.
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!
Then there’s this shirt.
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:
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!