An Old Flannel Shirt Somehow Makes the New Year 2012 Cold Merely “Cold”

I’m lucky.

I live in a place where cold is spelled “cold.”  You have to have those quotes in there, or it’s not written correctly.

I like it that way.  I’ve lived in places where cold is spelled without the quotes, and honestly?  Well, I like it here.  I know plenty of people that live in cold (no quotes) climates and they seem generally happy, and I wouldn’t rule out ever moving to a colder place, but for me?  Well, there’d probably have to be mountains around upon which I could ski.

Yup!  That’d make all the difference.

But today, I had a memory of those colder times in my life.  See, I had the day off work, so I decided to do something productive and wash my car.  With the hectic pace of life, chores have to be squeezed in whenever.  And it was a good day for it.  The sun was blazing, but I still put on the sweat pants and the shirt.  When I went outside, I noticed there was still a little “chill” (note the quotes?) in the air, so I came back in the house, reached down into the deep, dark bowels of my closet, and pulled out a flannel shirt.

Yeah, yeah…get your jokes out now.

See, when I was in the college in a cold, cold, cold (cold!) Midwestern town, I had a full closet of ‘em.  Flannel everywhere!  Oh, and before you get too snarky, it was in the early ‘90s, so it was a rule that every college student had to have a full battery of flannel shirts in deference to the gods of the Seattle music scene, or something like that.

But when I put it on, I paused in front of the mirror for a second and looked at myself.  Memories flooded back of all the places I’d worn it.  The concerts.  The snowy treks to parties and performances.  I thought about the tears, laughter, lattes, ink, late-night pizzas, and all the other emotions and activities that are now as much a part of its fabric as the blue and green dyes.

That was a time.  Now is a time.  The shirt bridged the gap.

The shirt is smaller now and a lot less warm than I remember, but it still fits.  Nevertheless, I realize that I have outgrown it.

Think of it this way: in college, that shirt was a uniform of sorts.  It was part of who I was at a certain time in my life.  It was a go-to.  A regular.  A comfort.  A shield against the snow.  But now?  Well, now it’s something I haven’t worn in 15 years.  It’s buried under newer, more stylish attire appropriate for social settings and the office.  It did its dirty duty today in 2011 for 30 minutes in the driveway and that was that.  And, had I picked a different corner of the closet, it would likely lay inert for 15 more years.

Where am I now?  Well, a new year is coming.  Can’t deny that, right?  No matter how comfortable and warm the last 365 days have been, a new calendar of months always comes around, even if we’re still wearing the old one.

January 1, 2012 is right around the corner.  We’ll make new resolutions in an effort to shed the old clothing and don the new—ready or not.  We’ll gather with friends and family, or a mug of tea and a journal, and re-live the older days of lives in progress.  Maybe we’ll take some of that stuff out and wear it for a little while longer.  Who knows?  But no matter what, much of what we have done will end up in the closet under the newer things that will also someday pass into memory.

But that ol’ flannel shirt.  No matter how far onward I go, it will likely always be there, waiting patiently for my mind to remember.  It will have a purpose long after I have forgotten its everyday utility.  It will be there.  Waiting.

Nevertheless, if it could talk, I know it would tell me to march into 2012 with a full heart.  It would say, “We had many days of comfort and warmth many years ago, but let 1/1/12 wash over you with sun, snow, sleet, rain, or whatever weather greets your days in the West!  Be unafraid.  Welcome new people, adventures, projects, and dreams.  Remember the idealism of when you wore me.  Continue to live out loud, no matter who tries to muffle your screams for a better tomorrow!”

Yep.  Mr. Flannel would say that.  I have no doubt.  He’s a good shirt.

But then he would remind me, quietly, to every once in a while dig into that closet.  Pull him out and put him on.  See if he still fits.  Take him for a spin in the driveway while doing some chore or another on the eves of new years.  Enjoy a memory.  Feel his warmth that was one so integral to a cold Midwestern night.

Then, when I put him away again, he would tell me to let it be lovingly and with appreciation.  After all, I never know when he might come in useful again someday in the cold or “cold” of an exciting and vibrant new year.

You know?  Maybe I’ll leave that shirt out for a day or two.  I’ll put it away after 2012 has begun….

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