Tattered Belongings

“Even when they realized they would not achieve a neat “happily-even-after” reunion with long-lost birthfathers, many birthmothers found it difficult to let go completely. Some became friends with birthfathers; others participated in extramarital affairs.  A few were involved too deeply to define their relationships and watched helplessly as their “normal” lives they had struggled to construct crumbled in the face of the storming, confusing emotions.” – Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories, Merry Bloch Jones

I realize I am tied to it much like the frayed sleeve caps are attached to the sleeves.  I don’t want to be.  It annoys me that I allow a piece of pale blue fabric to have any power over me, nostalgic as it may be.  It is a bit of a magic carpet. Taking me for an emotional ride to terrain left behind long ago.

It reminds me of a softer time, a happier time, a time when he cared and I cared and we thought things would be different. Touching the blue grey fabric, inspecting the inside tag that says Eddie Bauer, makes me smile.


I never called him that. He was Joe to me but I as touch the collar of his old shirt I can hear his grandmother calling him from the back of the small home he shared with her, his father and his brother. “Joey”.  I see him rising from the squat position on his driveway, dropping his tools and running in the front door towards his grandmother. I wait on the hot front steps.

I have Joey’s old torn sweatshirt.  He gave it to me years ago, shortly after reunion.  In retrospect it seems a rather odd thing to do. What would I want with a torn and tattered Eddie Bauer shirt?

He told me it was his favorite shirt. He told me he thought of me when he wore it, when he worked on his cars, his beloved past time. He imagined me wearing it in torn shorts, walking out the door, handing him a cold beer.  Told me he had it for years.  For some reason, a reason he could not articulate, he wanted me to have it.  Not to wear it, not to discard it, to have it.  It was special to him.  Something deep inside tucked far away from even his own conscious compelled him to give it to me. The expression was so raw, so earnest, I had to take it.   An old, torn, tattered, cherished work sweatshirt.

“Thanks.  I guess.” I remember saying with a chuckle. He never gave me his name in marriage but he gave me a tattered sweat shirt.

I have held on to his shirt for I don’t know how many years. I have moved it from one home to another to yet another.  A few months ago I found it in the vicinity of a pile of junk in our basement. Certain my husband thought it belonged in the pile (it certainly looked like it), I picked it up and placed it in our storage area on a hard to reach shelf.  Still having no idea what I would do with a tattered sweatshirt belonging to my daughters father, I felt compelled (much like he likely did years earlier) to hold on it to it.   It meant something to him, I was supposed to keep it. I still don’t know why.

While dismantling the Christmas tree and packing away ornaments, the blue sweatshirt made another appearance.  I snatched it up and this time took it upstairs and placed it next to The Box.  The sentimental part of me, the nostalgic person that prefers to remember birth father with love instead of bitterness and anger, holds on to it.


What does it signify?  Why keep this tattered blue sweat shirt?  There was a time I foolishly hoped that my daughter might want it.  The idea makes me laugh now. Seriously. The silly things I thought in early reunion.  The value I placed on things that I ridiculously assumed my daughter would as well.  If I was stumped with receiving the gift surely she would be more so.  Again, the nostalgia, the visions, the dreams of days gone by.  Perhaps I wanted her to want it. I wanted her to find something sweet tangled within the fabric like I did.

I can’t throw it away yet I have no reason to keep it.  Discarding it feels somehow sacrilegious. Yet keeping it feels equally so.

4 Thoughts.

  1. I understand. Even though my experience with my son’s father was entirely different.

    I wish I felt that same love and nostalgia toward him, that I had something I thought I should pass on to my son. I didn’t even have old photos, until some were discovered in my best friend’s parents’ belongings, after they passed away. I did give him those.

    When all was said and done, I felt used and tossed away. Every mother’s story is different. It makes sense to me that you still keep the shirt. I think if I were in your situation, feeling as you do, that I would.

    As my hub says about stuff we hang on to for no particular reason, “it isn’t eating any bread.” So why not?


    • “When all was said and done, I felt used and tossed away.”

      Oh, I felt this. Not once, but four times during our 20 someting year affair of the heart.

      Love your hubs statement. Amusing.

  2. Oh, I would not be able to get rid of it either. To me it would be like throwing away a part of my son again…. I’ve written, erased, and re-written trying to get this sentiment out of my head and into writing but I just can’t get it right. I get it though, and yes, sacrilegious with either the keeping or the getting rid of. *sigh*

    It’s all just so confusing, isn’t it? I just ring these kinds of things up to the fact that giving a child up for adoption doesn’t make sense in the first place, so how in the hell can we make sense out of the things that follow??

    • Susie – You hit on a key point that I have blogged about in the past. I hang on to things as they are ways to hang on to my daughter – even though she prefers I didn’t. I have that entire box of things I keep hoping she will care about some day. And yet, if she doesn’t, ever, I don’t think I could bring myself to burn them.

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