Secondhand: Amberle & her Tie Dye T-shirts

When I was a child, there was a special day each year right after school got out in the magical few days before summer camp started when my sister and I were blissfully free. When we were young, one of our parents would have to take off work and stay with us or we’d get shipped off to the neighbors and ride bikes or, if we were lucky swim in a lake or pool all day. But around this time each year, we’d have tie-dye day: the magical opposite of buying school clothes day. First, we’d cut our pants and jeans into shorts. Then we gathered our light colored clothes from the previous year: white Tshirts, socks, pants, and even underwear. Out in the backyard we mixed hot water with dark colored powders to make steaming spackle buckets of tie dye. The entire family, my mother, father, sister and I twisted our Tshirts in small bunches around pebbles or coins and wrapped them in rubber bands. We folded our pants back and forth into pleats or pinched and twisted them into dozens of nubby appendages. We wrapped our socks around sticks and secured them with more rubber bands. Then we’d dip them into each bucket that looked to be the same dark brew, but in fact were the blue, red, and yellow RIT hot water dyes we chose earlier from the craft store. We’d soak and squeeze our misshapen clothes and then hang them on a clothes line strung only for Tie Dye Day festivities between the tree and the shed. We’d ask every 5 minutes if it was done yet. Our parents made us wait hours which felt like days that we spent in rapt suspense alternating between staring at the bundles on the clothes line and asking every 5 minutes if it was done yet. Finally, in the evening we were allowed to take down our still wet and cold formerly respectable, now artistic garments. We would squeeze and ring them in cold clear water with vinegar to set the dye. And finally, finally be allowed to unwrap our creations. Our cold fingers would struggle with the rubber band which had grown mysteriously tight. We could see the Reds, oranges, greens and blues emerging from the damp folds and after the last rubber band or coin or rock had been removed, shake out our shirts, socks, pants and undies to reveal bright swirls of color or sometimes muddy greenish browns if the ties weren’t tight enough. We’d proudly hang our creations back on the line overnight and in the morning dress proudly in full tie dye glory, from shirts and shorts to socks and even brightly colored undies fully completing our wardrobe, our uniform, identifying us as special, unique, one of a kind and certainly different from anyone else.

 

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