In the very back of the Rolodex of mi vida live snapshots of a beautiful childhood. For the majority of these moments, I was wearing one of two t-shirts, both of a nautical theme. The first, an aquamarine cotton base with a portrait of Ariel, a first Disney love. The second, the subject of this scattered recollection, was stark fluorescent white cotton with three animated sharks, jaws head on, the phrase “Your money or Your Blood,” printed right below.
A gift from my mother who bought the gem in Turkey, the t-shirt epitomized all cool by my standards. Though I could not yet read the foreign text, several other elements quickly made it the most popular item in my chromatic wardrobe.
The number of sharks, a trinity, aligned with my knowledge of, and agreement with, my mother’s affinity for odd numbers.
The place of origin (or less romantically, purchase) played an equally important role in my admiration of her gift. Turkey. So exotic, so unimaginably exotic. My perception was that it was a place that I tried tirelessly to create in forming mazes and forts around our living room many times over in the prior years. A t-shirt from Turkey certainly meant that my imaginary lands with their distinct languages and beautifully varied people had a place in reality. And someday, my eyes would adjust as the surreal came to fruition and my feet would be walking on such seemingly distant soil.
Most notably, those mean-mugging sharks held a dear place in my heart because my mama got it. Her trip to Turkey was the first significant amount of time we spent apart. Aside from infrequent moments waiting to open presents on my birthday or standing in Time Out Corner, time was an island I didn’t include in my imaginary places. Didn’t care about it, shed no thought on the subject. But in this instance, my favorite person in the entire world was away for two whole weeks. An eon of eons, it seemed.
In her absence, my friends and I raced down an old raw wooded trail, traveling what we thought was the speed of light past the birch trees. I remember falling and watching the others run ahead. I cried out, but no one stopped. Maybe I had a cut, maybe a flesh wound, maybe a scratch, but regardless of the wound’s nature, no one was there to talk it out with love and comfort, or even call me an idiot. I remember yelling to my friends, long gone by this point, “Yea, well, a snake bit me! I didn’t just fall! So there! There’s that!” Faked it for the trees that time, but they didn’t bend down or shed any leaves of consolation either.
So the few days after this losing race, awaiting her arrival was treacherous and hilarious and filled with a child-like desperation I haven’t felt in a long time.
But she came back, and she brought me a t-shirt with three toothy sharks, saying who knows what in a language I wouldn’t speak until years later. She knew I would adore such a bizarre aquatic scene, and she thought of me. That was the most important thing as a little minion, to know your mama took you with her every place she went in her heart and in her mind.
The shark sketch above, very reminiscent of the Turkish Trio, was a stream of consciousness drawing that actually later sparked a conversation about Mark Cuban and Shark Tank ( I swear I wasn’t thinking of that when drawing. I only pinched together two words: Mean and Shark. Mark.)
In my twenty fifth year, I’m slowly realizing it all comes back to my oldest running best friend.
This is an Ode to All the Mamas.
And cool t-shirts.
Good Night from Atl