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More than a T-Shirt

I’m moving. That means getting rid of stuff. It is a very liberating process. Have we touched that fondue pot any time in the last ten years? No. Is the decorative pewter rabbit dish really “our style?” Nope. Do we need all those fly rods?

Yes. Yes, we do.

There are a handful of things that are basically off limits when it comes to the purge. Fishing gear easily makes it into that category. I have been quite good, though. I gave away a knife and a chest pack. And a box of assorted conventional tackle. Those are three fishing things that I was willing to part with. I’m impressed with myself.

But then there are some things that I’d consider to be on the periphery of fishing gear. I have every Trout Unlimited calendar from at least the last decade. There are a number of kitschy mugs with fish or flies on them. And then there are the shirts.

I love a good t-shirt. In fact, I love a lot of good t-shirts. There is the drawer in my dresser, the other drawer with the performance fabric shirts, the bin under the bed, and then the box in the basement. My wife was, until the penning of these words, hitherto unaware of that box.

Again part of moving, and part of being a responsible adult, involves getting rid of stuff. It was about time for me to downsize. Significantly. So I did. It wasn’t that bad, mostly. There were a few snags in the process. Emotion, nostalgia – call it what you want, this “feeling” business was to blame for some of the more difficult decisions.

I don’t have a massive collection of fly fishing t-shirts. I have a couple from fly shops, and a few from fishing apparel companies. For some reason, I’ve been incredibly restrained and selective in that regard.

Unfortunately, one of the herd had to be culled.

photo from islander.org
photo from islander.org

The garment in question was a souvenir from a post-high school graduation trip to Anna Maria Island, Florida. The local newspaper’s clever slogan, to this day, is “more than a mullet wrapper.” The connotation, of course, is that the periodical is useful for more than fish packaging. For a teenager enthralled by the island, the fishing, and the hairstyle of the same name – picking up a shirt was a no-brainer.

It was a great week. Inevitably I’ll share some of the experience in the future on this site. But today, I don’t have a giant fiberglass tarpon by which I can remember the trip. There isn’t a picture of my friend Alan and I holding up big sea trout or redfish. The only tangible thing I have to remember that week by is an old, stretched, stained t-shirt.

And sadly, the aforementioned adjectives beat out wistfulness in a number of objective categories.

That is fine, though. I might not have a physical token to link me to that week, but I have plenty of memories. The same thing could be said for any number of the shirts, knickknacks, and tchotchkes that are strewn about the house or boxed up already. Some are special, but some are just superfluous.

I’m aware that this isn’t really about fly fishing. At the same time, reminiscing and the corresponding “trophies” are a big part of the culture. It might not be a mounted fish, but a t-shirt, fly, or restaurant coaster may very well be your tether to that day or that place.

Those things can be important, but they are just symbols representing a day or a place. Moreover, the day and the place are only extraordinary since you were part of them. The symbol is always inferior to what it represents. In this case that is you – me, and the memories of time on the water and with friends.

For me and that Florida trip, a ratty t-shirt isn’t at all important with that perspective. For another person and another situation, a t-shirt might be. Knowing those differences can be important: for moving and for priorities.

After all, the Islander is still “ranked Florida’s best community weekly,” which means that I’ll be able to get another shirt the next time I’m in town.

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