By Savannah Maynard

Twenty-seven years after my brother Worth gave me this large, white graphic T-shirt, inked with the black image of a wolf standing guard over a winter wood, I unfold it, my favorite, from atop a stack of other less inspired tees of basic white, pink, brown and grey. You solid shirts must be jealous as you languish, knowing that I feel most myself when I wear my beloved wolf tee.

Blessed be tees that provide, if not Gwyneth chic or Angelina cool, comfort and an unexpected smile from a stranger at the Farmers Market who, detoured from his Saturday morning search for the sweetest, plumpest strawberries, pauses, rapt by the piercing yellow eyes of the wolf, and lets out a howl of affirmation. I am not alone.

Could my brother have known when he gave me this shirt how I would treasure it all these years? Did he think it in style, a trend, a fad, a joke? Or did he recall his little sister, clambering after him, crying, “Wolf, Wolf,” her lips pursed, almost whistle-ready, her tongue too young to curl and flick against her teeth when calling her brother’s name, but her devotion too great to ever stop trying.

Now eighteen years after his death, could Worth ever have guessed how many Goodwill bags from which his gift would be spared? How many times its existence would be defended? You can always see it coming. My sister pulls into the driveway, catches me planting, willy-nilly, a patchwork of morning glories and tiger lilies around the lamppost. “You’re not wearing that shirt out of the yard, are you?” she asks.

“What would it hurt?”

“Promise me,” she says. “You know our mother raised us better.” But I can’t promise what I know to be a lie. My brother taught me better. Granted, I would not get married in this shirt: there is a tiny hole in the side, the wolf’s black nose has faded, and his yellow eyes have dimmed with age. But I’ll never see the harm in wearing it to the gas station to grab a Dr Pepper, or the grocery store to pick up paper towels, or the post office to mail a package for that matter.

I tell my sister, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.” People love this shirt.

I finger the hem and think words I dare not speak: if cremation ever loses its charm I should be buried in this shirt.

About this writer

  • Savannah Maynard Savannah Maynard’s essay, “Fried Lemons in Heaven,” appears in the anthology Imagining Heaven. She has been a commentator for Charlotte, North Carolina’s National Public Radio Station WFAE 90.7.

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