When I was five, I watched nine-year-old Tommy Torgerson put on his T-shirt at the swimming pool. He was a killer swimmer—could do the butterfly. His shirt had a pocket. From that moment on I believed in T-shirt pockets.
“Mom,” I said, after the soggy dash home from the pool, “I need a pocket.”
“But whatever for?” she asked.
I’ve been answering that question ever since.
Pocket T’s mean summer sandals and getting dressed without a thought of wind chill or that your night hair has wandered in unnatural directions. These pockets are made to hold things not big or valuable, but miniature treasures that sweeten average moments: Atomic Fire Balls, sand from your last beach visit, Bazooka gum comic strips, a Milk Dud.
In a pocket T, everyone is more relaxed.
Miss Kesselmeyer was not relaxed. “Just read the poem!” she thundered in fourth grade English, her bad eye twitching.
Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it.
Miss Kesselmeyer said pocket was an ancient word. In the Middle Ages the word was poke. “A Poke was a bag,” she said, “sometimes used by sellers to trick buyers. Pig-in-a-poke was the trick of selling rat meat as real meat.”
“Ewwwwwwwww!” We loved it. She talked to us like we were—people.
In the 1700’s the word evolved to pocket. That’s when Lucy lost hers, which in this case, Miss Kesselmeyer said, meant Lucy had fleeced her boyfriend. We giggled. Miss Kesselmeyer did not giggle. Never-ending layers of clothing restricted any giggly-ness. Not one of her layers had a pocket, of that I was sure.
Miss Kesselmeyer said few remembered Lucy Locket’s poem, but the tune was used for Yankee Doodle Dandy. Wow—my pocket mania suddenly had legitimacy!
As I grew older, I found it harder to find pocket T’s. Was it worth the hassle? I learned the pocket is unprofitable, low margin. It can require more work than the T-shirt itself—cutting, aligning, sewing; a machine alone can’t complete a pocket.
But you still can find them. One summer morning my daughter stuck her four-year-old fingers in my pocket. “That’s not for you,” I said.
“No, it’s for you,” she said. Inside I found a glittery white pebble. “It’s a star,” she said.
Indeed. Holding that star I remembered Tommy Torgerson and my mad dash home. That Mom sewed a white pocket on my neon yellow t-shirt didn’t matter a wink: I knew I could swim the butterfly.
And holding that star I thought of Miss Kesselmeyer, who I finally realized did have a pocket under all those clothes after all. You see, that day we studied Lucy Locket I lingered after class. “Why is a pocket always on the left side of a T-shirt?” I asked.
“Because,” she said, her twitching eye suddenly soft, “it’s over your heart.”