By: Shannon Ralph
I have this t-shirt that I love. I have had it for years and years. It is a light blue short-sleeved ringer t-shirt with a picture of Underdog on it. Remember Underdog? That canine defender of all things good? I adore that shirt. Of course, my children have never seen Underdog and have no clue why mommy would wear a t-shirt with a flying dog emblazoned on it. But I don’t expect them to understand. Underdog belongs solely to a certain generation. A specific place in time.
Yes, it is a ratty old t-shirt, but I get more compliments on that shirt than any other article of clothing I own. It makes people smile. Complete strangers are constantly telling me that they love my shirt or asking me where I purchased it. I think people admire it so much because it takes them back to a moment in time when things were simpler. When our lives were not so busy. When our pace was not so exhausting. When we didn’t have mortgages and children and car payments and jobs and bosses and PTA fund-raisers to worry about. A time when life was uncluttered and joys were simple and abundant.
It hearkens back to a time when we drank grape kool-aid from brightly-colored aluminum tumblers. A time when we baked brownies with light bulbs in our Easy-Bake ovens. It makes me think of the days when kids could run around the neighborhood all day long in relative safety. A time when my mom would kick us kids out the front door in the morning and would not see us again until she yelled for us to come in for lunch. It reminds me of jumping ropes. Freeze tag. Climbing trees. Hopping over fences to retrieve wayward kickballs. It reminds me of ABC Afterschool Specials about the perils of beer and cigarettes. American Band-Stand and Solid Gold Dancers. It awakens in me memories of penny candy and bicycles with glittery banana seats. A time when Saturday was “Cartoon Day” (as opposed to today when cartoons are readily available on dozens of channels twenty-four hours a day). I look at that shirt and envision other beloved cartoon characters of my youth. Captain Caveman. Grape Ape. Rocky and Bullwinkle. Scooby Doo. That ratty old t-shirt takes me back to an all-too-brief place in time when all was right with the world. A time when a little girl growing up in small-town Kentucky could climb up onto the roof of her best friend’s house and discuss all of her hopes and dreams. The exciting places she would go and the amazing sights she would see one day. That shabby old t-shirt has power beyond what its simple cotton fibers suggest.
For my last birthday, Ruanita bought me a new Underdog t-shirt. A cream-colored shirt with an orange and yellow vintage image of Underdog flying across the front. As you can imagine, I fell in love with it instantly. As I was standing in line at the urgent care clinic Sunday morning waiting to get my son his umpteenth strep test of the season, the harried-looking late-thirty-something receptionist behind the counter glanced at my t-shirt and smiled wistfully. “I love your t-shirt,” she said.
Yea…I love it, too.