Brian J. Sullivan
The bird's eye maple dresser, once my grandmother's, was passed down to my mother and now to me. It stood diagonally in the corner of my bedroom across from the hallway door. At one time, its gracefully curved drawers and shapely legs were the height of style. A large oval mirror supported on either side by matching uprights allowed for tilting of the mirror for the most convenient angle. Through the years, the coating of silver on the back of the beveled mirror had disintegrated to a point of rendering it useless, as blackish patterns made most reflections unrecognizable.
The top surface of the dresser had a multitude of watermark stains, presumably caused by years of being used as a plant stand. Globs of unknown brown substance, semi-sticky, also graced the top of the dresser.
I stood before the seven-drawer dresser in quiet contemplation, looking at myself in the partial reflection of the mirror. In each hand I held a brass drawer pull, loose from years of service. I hesitated, looked again into the mirror, and felt a quiet reassurance throughout my body. The drawer, a bit tight, took a slight tug to open.
Coconut Grove, Cape Coral, Lake front Festival of the Arts, Brighton Street Fair, Des Moines 14th Annual Art Fair—these were but a few of the many T-shirts that filled my dresser drawers. Each shirt, neatly folded with its logo on the front partially exposed, sat quietly before me. No words were spoken. Memories came flooding back to me as I was transported back in time.
It seems like only yesterday that I was a young and boyish artist setting up at the Morning Glory art fair on the grounds of the Charles Allis Art Museum, or at the Lake front Festival of Arts, overlooking Lake Michigan with its cool breeze coming off the lake.
I did not have a tent or any display walls in those days. But then again neither did anyone else. I used two card tables and covered them with a piece of blue velvet material I had purchased at the fabric store. Others around me had similar setups. There were no beer tents, cell phone booths, live music, or imported items on a stick for sale—only hand-made art by the artists.
How time flies and times change. I lovingly caress a neatly folded
T-shirt, its partially exposed graphics across the front were of the 60s design. I carefully remove it from its resting place and place it next to my face. It's soft cotton weave feels good against my cheek. I close my eyes.
These were tumultuous times. President Kennedy had just been assassinated, to be followed by Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Nightly, images of the Vietnam War were broadcast into our homes. Downtown, protesters marched in boisterous cacophony. Central sections of large cities across the United States burned as race riots got out of control. Black Panther's membership rose. The Apollo space program had successfully landed a man on the moon and returned safely to Earth. We were at the height of the Cold war with Russia, nuclear threat only moments away as each of the superpowers had hundreds if not thousands of nuclear warheads pointed towards each other, ready to fire at a moment's notice. Woodstock had just ended only to gain more notoriety as time went on.
Like the mirror before me, I have aged noticeably over the years. Grey hairs and wrinkles are but two of the changes.
I carefully place my T-shirt back upon its proper place among its peers. I close the drawer. Enough memories for one day.