Friday, March 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye in a Stack of T-Shirts

Big sister and little sister,
circa 1947

My older sister Lonnie died this week. Ours was a small family. Perhaps the only positive in that is less funerals to attend, less goodbyes to make. Lonnie was my older sister by nine years. With that great an age difference, she was really another adult in my life, albeit the one I shared a room with. I looked up to her as only little sisters can and was as much a pest at times as only little sisters can be.

She was the true artist among us— a hunter-and-gatherer of the first degree. Everything was fodder for her incredible talents. She never threw anything away because you never know...

I wouldn't call Lonnie a pack rat. She was more of an un-pack rat as organization was not her greatest skill. Her son Rick had done an amazing job in recent months trying to get things in order. He was, however, flummoxed when it came to the clothes.

Lonnie was the Mrs. Spratt to my Jack. We were physically very different types. She was a plus-size Bohemian and not a slave to trends. In fact, on-trend plus size choices are very limited. She praised Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne for making basics like tees and pants. Her favorite brands were simple, loose-fitting styles by Eileen Fisher and FLAX. She had a weakness for screen-print-ornamented dresses by Blue Fish.

In general, simple clothes were a background for an incredible collection of ethnic jewelry, folkloric jackets, scarves, handbags and shoes. She never shied away from color or pattern. Dressing up was a personal form of creative self-expression, and she did it very well.

The result for Rick was two closets and a mountain of items to sort. In the short time I had before my plane back home, I lent my "brand expertise" to weed out what might be given another home or be eligible for resale on ebay (those sumptuous jackets for sure).

You might think it would be depressing, the nadar of chores, to go through a deceased family member's clothing the day after the funeral. That scene of the rag sorters in the 1950s version of "A Christmas Carol" as they haggle over Scrooge's belongings still upsets me to watch.

Yesterday, as I folded t-shirt after t-shirt, I felt very close to my big sister— a sister, a friend, a major influence in my life since— well— birth. It was as if, with each fold, I was hugging her...

...hugging her goodbye.

Lonnie would have loved this


  1. I had to do the same, with dozens of my baby brother Dave's t-shirts. I had the idea of making some tea-cozies out of the better ones, i.e. the classic and great, t shirts, such as the CBGBs, the Stones, the Beatles. I made four, then couldn't imagine cutting up any more, they are too precious to hold onto as a collection of his.

  2. Do you think this may have something to do with the very softness of t-shirt jersey as well as knowing this material was closest to their skin? Just a thought...

    1. very much so. sending lots of love and healing wishes to you, dear Michelle.

    2. Thank you Maryellen. It is so nice of you to send your thoughts. And very much appreciated.

  3. There is a wonderful bond between sisters no matter the age difference or location. My sympathy to you.

  4. I am sorry for your loss. What a lovely post though. Your love for your sister shines though your words.