Checking out at the grocery story one day, the woman behind me read my t-shirt and asked, “Do you live in Phoenix, or do you just have the t-shirt?” Honestly, I don’t think much about what’s on my t-shirt after I put it on in the morning. It took me a minute to understand what she was asking.
“My husband brought it back for me from a business trip,” I replied. “It’s a thing we do.” As I walked back to my son’s house where I’d been helping out, I thought about how the bring-me-back-a-t shirt tradition started.
It started with key chains.
Sam and I married young by today’s standards. We had our first child, Ashley, a year later. She had gained three sisters and a brother by 1992, the year she turned seven. I had gained 133 pounds and held onto most of it until 2001.
During those years, Sam had worked himself up from box maker at a local medical device manufacturer to quality manager at a local competitor. More responsibility meant he started going on business trips. Each time he went to a new city or country, he’d bring me back a souvenir key chain instead of a t-shirt. Back in the 80s and early 90s, it was difficult to find a size XXXXL t-shirt in a department store and impossible to find one at an airport gift shop. He had fun picking out a key chain he thought I’d like, and I looked forward to seeing what he’d chosen for me.
By 2003, with the support of my wonderful husband, family, and friends, I had deleted three Xs from my t-shirt size. Sam started buying me souvenir t-shirts! I was sooooo excited to finally fit into my wardrobe of choice: a t-shirt and jeans. My closet quickly filled up with t-shirts from cities all around the United States.
The colorful phoenix logo on my t-shirt is symbolic of the journey I’ve been on. In many ways, the old me has died and a new happier, more grateful person has risen from the ashes of her former self. When I look at myself in the mirror or walk into my closet and see my colorful t-shirts, I say a little prayer thanking God for His grace and for the place He’s brought me to in my life.