T-Shirts for Christmas

I am currently in my pre-Christmas scramble to complete my list…

The cat: check. Wigs: check. Monkey: check. Disco cats: check. Giant tree burned in 1988: check. The G Train: check. 19th century folk art advertising sign of a pig: check. Skyline of Columbus –canted and slightly blurred: check. Graffiti jellyfish: not check. Soviet meerkats: not check. The cat, yet again: not check. A precarious fire escape: not check.

Of course I will not be wrapping any Soviet meerkats. The vast majority of meerkats who lived under the Soviet system are either long dead or have become oligarchs. And I dare anyone to who tries to put the cat in a box for wrapping to staunch their wounds in time before they bleed out. At least try to wear a green turtleneck before attempting to do so; the blood and the turtleneck will look festive together.

The reader, unless Christo is reading this blog for some reason (In that case, I loved The Gates.), has figured out that I’m probably talking about photographs here. This is a collection of found photos and photos of found objects (and the cat, always the cat). The vast majority is my own work, but when you find great disco cats, you’ve got to grab them.

I don’t just print out a photo and hand that to someone, though that would be so much easier. I transfer each photo to a t-shirt, two for each niece and nephew. This year sizes range from 3-6 months to adult large –a total of twelve. I don’t do this to save money or time. Trust me, that iron-on transfer paper ain’t cheap, and the entire process consumes days.

But I have to do it because UNCLE CHRIS GIVES T-SHIRTS FOR CHRISTMAS. It is expected of me. I don’t know how it started. I guess I just got tired of searching for appropriate toddler toys. Most of them just seemed like plastic pieces of crap designed to either emit an ear-piercing squeal (BOP IT!) or break into shards and shivs. At first I got t-shirts from online outfits like Glarkware or Threadless. These were appreciated because the parents would never go out and buy a stupid t-shirt for their own child. What parent buys a shirt that says “Dingo Snack” for their infant?

But after a few years their designs seemed to repeat. The search for unique t-shirts became a slog, and remember, UNCLE CHRIS GIVES T-SHIRTS. He’s “funny” that way. Also, I lived in Brooklyn, a land renowned for shops that carry kids’ tees –for $40. I’m willing to shell out time and effort and a few buck for a cheap tee and iron-on paper, but I will not spend more on a child’s shirt than I would on a new kidney. So, a couple years ago I was laying on my couch in my usual funk watching the slide-show of old photos that plays whenever my AppleTV is stagnant for two minutes when it hit me that a lot of the photos I’ve taken would make decent t-shirts.

I worry that there’s a certain amount of narcissism involved with printing out t-shirts of photos you’ve taken yourself. Who am I to decide what’s an appropriate shirt? Isn’t that the job of fancy people in better shoes and hair than me? I have a real hard time putting something out there that says, “Hey look, I made something. Look at it! Give me approval!” I know that sounds funny coming from someone with a writing blog, but you have no idea how much my right eye twitches and my arm shakes before I hit that “publish” button. You should read the stuff that I never decide to publish. And to show stuff to my family? That’s 10000x harder than showing to normal people.

But I overcome this fear because the fear of being forgotten is so much stronger. I know that if I got hit by a bus on my way home from the Panera where I’m writing this, this blog would live on in 1s and 0s somewhere (as long as I ordered in my will that WordPress gets their money every year).

It’s the same with the t-shirts. I hope that even though I may be many miles away, the kids will think of me when they put on the shirts this Christmas and for the next 364 days. And long after I’m gone, I pray they’ll remember the shirts, no matter how stupid or non-sensical or Soviet they may be. That’s my Christmas gift to myself.

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