One hundred percent pure cotton against the skin is like a drink of cool water on a hot summer day; cotton refreshes the skin. My favourite shirt is of such a material: white, long sleeves with embroidered cuffs, the single collar band also embroidered, all in white. Lying against the embroidered placket, the buttons, each covered in white cotton go unnoticed.
My right arm slides through the sleeve and the touch of the cotton take me back in time, a time in which my existence consisted of homework, dancing, playing jacks or hanging out with friends. I must have been six or seven years old when I began attending the all-girls Catholic school, Nuestra Senora del Rosario, and for six years straight I wore white cotton shirts. My grandmother, Dionisia and to her friends, Nichita, would give me a freshly ironed shirt every morning. “Gracias Abuelita.” “Just try not to get too dirty today.” “Si Abuelita.” The smell of clean laundry wraps around me, warm and crisp.
As I slide my left arm into the sleeve, I feel my wet hair press against my skin and I pull the shirt so that it will drape nicely on my back, I gather my hair which comes to my waistline and I pull it from underneath. I envision Saturday morning of my early teens, my hair down and messy instead of braids which I wore during the school days and I hold a cup of freshly brewed Cafe de Hoya. This cup of coffee I would take to the backyard where the cool breeze of the early morning would begin my day. I can catch glimpses of Abuelita through the rows of gently swaying damp white shirts. She is carefully washing a week’s worth of school clothes for three kids. Her body slightly bent over the washboard. I hear the sound of her hands scrubbing the shirts with a bar of soap and the splashes of water showering her hands and cleaning the fabric. Her apron is wet and she is focused on her task, she does not notice me watching her. She has been up for several hours now and in full swing of her weekend tasks. Abuelita enjoys washing laundry which has been tasked to Julia, our housekeeper, Abuelita complains that Julia does not know how to wash laundry, but I think that she finds the task soothing; I know I do. I would weave between the laundry toward the rocking chair or sometimes I would sit on the cool tile floor, sip my coffee and quietly watch Abuelita move to her next task, tending to her most favorite rose bushes. She would so tenderly, trim, prune, clip, feed and water them. She whispered to the bushes as she cuts flowers, each cut deliberate. Her small bundle of roses would find themselves on the dining room table; proudly displaying perfectly red, pink and white peddles. The scent of roses moved through the air boldly and playfully. My gaze moves to the laundry, lazily drying in the breeze.
Buttons create the mood of any shirt. White cloth wraps the buttons, which allows for no distractions on the simplicity of my shirt. As I take the small round buttons between my index finger and my thumb and slide each one through the eyelets, I can see why at the age of four I thought the buttons which I found in Abuelita’s nightstand were coins; they varied in size just like coins do. I would take my new found coins to the candy store at the end of our block and ask Dona Socorro for Huevos Chimbos, a very sweet, egg-shaped candy, my father’s favourite. My father’s children were referred to as Huevos Chimbos in resemblance of our eyes, big, slightly slanted. On special days Dona Socorro would also have Hershey’s chocolate bars imported from the United States; that was a special treat! The nice thing was that I always got change back, so I would return day-after-day until Dona Socorro told me that my cloth coins would not buy me any more candy and to ask Nichita for new coins.
I see myself in the mirror, wearing my white cotton shirt and I am dressed in memories.