And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Back in the spring of 1996 I bought a pair of khaki green shorts from Gap in Fukuoka, Japan. With the exception of 2010, when I was heavily pregnant, I’ve worn them every summer since. They’ve even seen a few days wear during brief Arctic summers in Arviat, Nunavut.

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They were dark green eighteen years ago. Now they’re faded to grey, threadbare and falling to pieces. But I can’t bear to let them go. Other items of clothing have come and gone in those eighteen years, but none have been as comfortable or carry so many memories as those faded old shorts.

They remind me of so many good times, and I know every day I put them on is going to be a good day. They remind me of hiking Mt. Aso and other volcanoes in Kyushu, southern Japan, with Linda, Fiona, Sarah, Sara, Brian, Stefan, Patricia and others; of climbing 3,333 steps to a temple in Fukuoka-ken with Lisa; of summer holidays with my great friend Takako and her wonderful family; and of summer Japanese barbecues.

These shorts remind me of a holiday in Hawai’i with Liliane, and of returning to Maui a few years later to volunteer on a humpback whale research project, with long days spent in the open ocean in a small boat, surrounded by giant humpback whales.

They remind me of arctic char fishing in Arviat with Crystal and of Honda/ATV rides out to Nuvuk to chat to other fishermen and women and see if there were any polar bears about.

They remind me of summer Sunday trips to Croke Park with Daddy and my uncle Tom for the Gaelic football, and of long summer days at home in Ballygibbon, keeping Daddy company as he went about his gardening chores.

They remind me of camping trips with Julian – in Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria; of long hikes and pub lunches; and of exploring the countryside of Cambridgeshire and Devon with Lily and Katie.

I’m wearing them as I write this.

I don’t think they’ll see another summer. They are threadbare and beyond repair. But I cherish them for their memories and I will be sad to say goodbye to them when the time comes. As Cat Stevens sang ‘And the patches make the goodbyes harder still’.

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9 thoughts on “And the patches make the goodbye harder still

  1. Ah I think it’s time you let them go 😢 The poor shorts have served you well , above and beyond the call of duty . They must be so tired !!! Go on let them retire in peace and break in a new pair 😒

  2. You strike a chord! I can relate to this story Martina dear. This year, I finally threw out a bush hat that I picked up in Western Australia in 1997. It had been through East and Southern Africa, plenty of Europe, parts of North America, Vietnam, any amount of drama and toxic levels of dirt and sunblock, residues of which were ground into the grain of its scabby, fungal, leathery structure. Sometimes, the thing that makes a thing the thing it is, is your ability to take that thing and translate it into the thing that was, like all those other things that made that thing the thing it will become, from that moment on, in your recollections.

    • Gavin, now I’m kicking myself! When I was dreaming up this blog post, I thought of you, and meant to include memories of long summer walks with you. Alas I forgot (I am the world’s worst friend). One of these days I’m going to write a post devoted entirely to you. It will be epic! I promise. Or at least it will embarrass the hell out of you!

  3. I have found a way of saving the memories of those beloved clothes and fabrics. I create memory quilts out of them. They are usually lap quilts so you can still ‘feel’ the memory by just having it on your lap on a cooler day. Save the shorts and any other cherished textiles and I’ll make one for you xxxxDee

    • What a lovely idea! Lily is bit by bit learning to sew. She’s made a couple of bags, using those beginner sets you can buy. Moving on to making a memory quilt might be a lovely thing for her to do. xxx

  4. Oh, I know how you feel! I had a pair of jeans which were more patches than jeans 😀 For fun, I got my mum to patch them with different colours so I essentially ended up wearing patchwork pants! In the end, they got so thin that they would ladder if I sat down too quickly and my mum refused to patch them anymore 😉 So I had to give them up. It’s hard, isn’t it?!

    • I once had a pair of jeans I loved immensely. When they were no longer suitable to wear as jeans I got my sister’s friend, a dressmaker, to turn them into a bag for me!

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