Stripes Two Ways

When my son was very little, most shirts I bought for him were striped. Soft knit, pullover shirts, their stripes were horizontally arrayed in reds and blues and greens. In summer they were “muscle shirts,” sleeveless Ts, and in winter they were turtlenecks. But almost all of them were striped.

This photo is of Son when he was two. On that day he was covered in stripes and spots.

OHmygosh, wasn’t he cute??

But when he was a little older, he called a moratorium on stripes. No more stripes. The declaration created some conflict as he was growing out of his striped shirts, but he was a boy who knew his own mind. There was no use buying shirts he’d never wear. I asked why stripes were not acceptable.

“Grown-ups wear stripes, and I am not a grown-up,” he told me.

“What about plaids? Will you wear plaids?” I asked.

“No. Plaids are just stripes two ways.”

Then one Christmas when he was about six, his beloved grandparents gave him a flannel shirt. Soft and nappy, it had stripes, two ways.

He wore it to please them. Once. Maybe twice. And then it hung in his closet for twenty-some years.

If you know me, you know I easily get rid of things that are no longer needed. But I never could get rid of this little shirt. For a long time I imagined making a pillow out of it, as my sister had done with his Dan Marino sweatshirt. (When he opened the Dan Marino pillow, he exclaimed, “I have a sweatshirt JUST LIKE THIS!”)

Still, the shirt hung in his closet. Until this week. After washing it, I cut it apart, front from back, sleeves from body, cuffs from sleeves. There was surprisingly little useful fabric in it. But with piecing, there was enough to cover a 12″ x 16″ pillow form.

The button placket serves as the closure for the cover. I’ll tuck a note in the chest pocket to tell him the pillow’s story, with the memory of his grandparents and his firm declaration that plaids are just stripes two ways.


27 thoughts on “Stripes Two Ways

  1. sandradny

    Melanie: What a beautiful blog post! I, too, used to dress my son in stripes — until his best friend pointed it out and now I never buy him stripes (he’s 17 years old today!)..Love the pillow!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      There are some things about our kids that don’t change, and some things that do. I bet you can expect to buy more stripes for him in the future. (Our son started wearing stripes again on his dress shirts, for jazz band in jr high and high school.)

  2. Nann

    Oh, what a great story, Melanie! The repurposed shirt is wonderful. (And not only did you reuse it, you were able to find it after all these years.)

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh, yes, it was easy to find. There are only 2 other shirts in that closet. One is a Dan Marino jersey. The other is a … ? Deion Sanders jersey? Maybe that. There used to be a flannel bathrobe, barely used, but I gave that away earlier this year. Otherwise, I think almost all the clothing is gone.

  3. Kerry

    Oh gosh chicken pox! So glad those days are out of the way. And like you the pox have their story with my boy! Sad, funny and gross all mixed into one!
    But that’s such a good idea. My daughter has been going through her “stuff” as she’s now moved to her own house miles away and found a shirt that my son had passed on to her. She didn’t want it, but it’s too pretty to throw. It was from a Florida holiday and the back has a beautiful painting (?) on the back with a whale bursting out of the water and surfers coming off the whale to the sea. I can’t throw it away and was wondering what to do to preserve it and give it back to him in another way. A pillow is a perfect solution – maybe a big throw-type cushion as the picture is about 18inches wide by 2ft+ long.
    In the meantime he’s going to get a Superman hand warmer. LOL!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think you’ve hit on the solution to that shirt!

      As for the kids going through their things, we’ve been encouraging Son to get through his things still at our house. He hasn’t thought that very important or urgent. Recently, though, we had to let him know we’d given away a pair of boots we thought abandoned. He hadn’t used them for at least 4 years, and suddenly he wants them again! He claimed to be “devastated.” I think he was exaggerating. But maybe now he’ll agree to help move those things along — his choices or ours…

  4. shoreacres

    What a delightful story. His certainty about the fact that “grownups wear stripes” reminds me of my conviction that “blue and green don’t go together.” Who knows how these are convictions are formed? But you’ve found a perfect conclusion to this story. I suspect he’ll think so, too.

  5. Paula Hedges

    My oldest daughter went through a crazy stage between 3 1/2 and 4 about dresses. Up until then all she wore were dresses. Suddenly she removed all dresses from her closet. Grandma and Grandpa came across country to visit during this time period and had been looking forward to taking her shopping for a pretty, frilly dress. Before I could tell them about her wardrobe change, off they went shopping and came home with nothing. Apparently, after showing her numerous dresses and hearing her say “no, thank you” each time, Grandpa was getting a bit upset as he had his heart set on buying her a dress. Finally, she said, “Grandpa, if you want to buy me a dress, how about you pick it out? But, I have to tell you, I am not going to wear it. I don’t wear dresses any more.” Smart Grandpa saved his money and got a good laugh out of how diplomatically she ended the shopping trip.

    I love the pillow idea and I know your son will, too! Thank you for sharing your story. Loved his explanation of plaids! And what an adorable picture – pox and all.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Ah yes, maybe it is that age. They finally begin to have a concept of self, as separate from the rest of the world. And that self has particular wants! I hope you remind your daughter of that sweet story. It’s fun to hear those stories again, isn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting.


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