[NOTE: I got in here late and am trying to rework an old-ish CNF piece with new insights from the prompts and reading materials. I think it fits with the vibe, hopefully.]
Marie Kondo haunts the woman’s closet and nags about whether any of these old T-shirts spark joy. It’s a tough question. The box may as well be full of family movies, even if she can’t wear the shirts. There’s a lot more in there than fabric. It’s her best bet against forgetting.
Joy, she considers. Her father turns his old T-shirts into cleaning rags when they sprout holes, because space is limited, and every kept thing needs a utility. Most things don’t survive, like memories.
The T-shirts in her closet ask, what use is a memory? Theirs are murky. Mass-production, factories overseas, environments of malaise. A squeeze, vacuum-packed into boxes, the shipping. Storage and time, the shipping again. Waiting and wanting for a purpose, then being unboxed, separated, pressed, stamped.
One shirt finds its way to a girl at soccer camp, twelve years old, wheezing through a mile-run warm-up. Her coaches say she has promise, but needs to apply herself. She tells her parents that when she runs, her legs feel like they’ll give out. When she lays down after practice, her shoulders slip out of place. Yearly she collects more T-shirts that tell her who she’s been. Doctors tell her that she’ll grow out of the pain, but she only grows out of the T-shirts.
She becomes a woman. A rheumatologist tells her that she can’t run. You’ll destroy your joints, she says. Have you tried swimming? She considers joy again, can’t find it.
The girl’s mother holds onto everything. Boxes crowd the basement, full of papers, trinkets from distant vacations, participation trophies, T-shirts that don’t fit. Marie Kondo hovers, holding her tongue. A neurologist tells the mother that she’s fine. But she loses bills and keys and dates and words from time to time. She tells the girl about her life when the radio’s on, models a pom-pom routine from high school, reminisces about marching band covers and the boys who didn’t like her back. Without the 70s at 7, she is angry, sad.
When the girl gets rid of things, her mother fishes them out of the trash, out of donation heaps. She puts them in boxes. The girl is different from the woman. The woman argues, doesn’t see the world like her mother. In these boxes lives a daughter she could recognize.
Maybe some things, offer the T-shirts, are better to forget. Marie Kondo nods.
“But,” the woman whispers, “I want to remember something essential.” A time when things were whole and uncomplicated. The T-shirts, not yet spun with polyester. There could be joy in there; the blossom of a cotton flower, unaware that one day, it will turn inward, sprout fibers, and be used.