Poems & Essays

18 Feb

The Skein of Stars Shirt

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I put it in a picture frame, which seems odd. Most people don’t put an article of clothing behind a piece of glass and hang it on a wall. But I did. It’s a still life that reflects active life – five bustling lives, as a matter of fact.

The small black knit shirt with the skein of stars aligned on the front made its debut with our first daughter Jackie when she started second grade.

“Man, I thought I was the coolest thing in that shirt,” reminisced Jackie who is now 33 years old.  “That was the first concept of ‘cool’ that I ever had.”

She did look cool in that piece of clothing. I remember taking a picture of her in it one day long ago.  Her white-blonde hair had been fixed in an exquisite French braid and so I had her stand in front of the large full-length mirror in the teeny tiny hall of our modest split-level home. My purpose had been to capture the hairstyle. But the shot in the frame captured her special attire – the legacy shirt.

When third child, second daughter, entered the second grade she wore the garment. She had inherited it from the time-honored tradition of handing down clothes. Most kids don’t like filling their wardrobe this way. Andrea had a different perspective.

“I always thought I was cool,” explained Andrea, “because I had my older sister’s clothes and she had style.”

Yes, even in the second grade, it’s important to have style. And to be cool. Apparently the article of clothing with the bright colored stars – pink, yellow, green and blue–across the front and the three-quarter length sleeves defined cool.

“It was an original,” remembered Andrea. “No one else in my class had anything like it.”

Nor apparently did anyone else in any of the three other second grade classes with Drake girls in future years.  The shirt got handed down from Andrea to Mandy; then it passed to JoJo before finally reaching Abbie who wore it 12 years after Jackie first debuted the special piece of clothing.

Handed down from sister to sister, the skein of stars shirt became a “legacy of coolness.”  It framed our memories.

“It just became a Drake girl tradition after Mandy wore it,” explained Andrea. “I’m impressed at how long it lasted.”

For an inexpensive piece of clothing probably picked up at a great price at Belk’s or JC Penney, it must have been well made. Laundered over hundreds of times, it came out of the wash looking like new each time – the perfectly aligned skein of stars still shining brightly.

The memories shine brightly too. Not long ago in celebration of Mothers Day, JoJo posted a fifteen-year old picture of herself with me. She was wearing the garment with the stars.  Someone posted to JoJo the comment that “your mother never ages.” Apparently the shirt doesn’t either.

Jackie posted a comment too. “Thief – that’s my shirt.” The old memories came flooding back – the girls fighting over pieces of clothing in their closets, claiming ownership even over items that were handed down – sister to sister over the years. But of course, they would fight over this one. It’s a cool piece of clothing. That’s why it’s hanging in a picture frame on the wall.




The mother of six grown children, Lori Rosenlof Drake is an educational consultant and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, San Diego Woman, Daily Nebraskan, Gaithersburg Gazette in Maryland and the Daily Reflector in North Carolina as well as other publications. She has received four honorable mentions in the Writer’s Digest National Writing Competition. The founder and former Headmistress of Roseleaf Academy, Lori is working on a book about her innovative girls’ middle school that has since closed.

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