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As regular readers will know, I love clothes. I take a certain pride in being well-dressed — even when engaging in casual activities such as swimming and walking. I have several mix ‘n match tankini tops and bottoms — and since I swim at least once a day during the summer, this is not really an extravagance. The chlorine takes its toll on the fabric in the suits, assuring that, by the end of the season, my suits are verging on being obscenely see-through in spots. Add to that my chlorinated green hair and I’m a vision.

As for my walking wardrobe, it’s t-shirts and shorts all the way. For years I relied on t-shirts my kids left behind in their closets –t-shirts from Nine Inch Nails, Mettalica and Rolling Stones concerts. Hey, I’m not too proud to be seen in those. It had to happen eventually, though, that they would wear out. I’m okay with concert shirts, but raggedy shirts is a step too far. So, when I travelled, I began to buy t-shirts from around the world. Now that’s what I call an investment wardrobe. They never go out of style and since they match nothing, they go with everything!

Gill has always scoffed at this ‘specialty’ dressing as being unseemly for someone of my advanced age, but this summer she lost it. I donned my bathing suit and met her on the deck to go to the pool together.

“Ma! What is THAT?” she asked, pointing at my top.

“You remember this,” I chastised her. “It’s my Canada shirt — the one I took on that cruise around the Virgin Islands with my friend.” It was just after the Sars outbreak in Toronto and  its message went: “I survived Canada: Sars, Mad Cow, blackouts,  West Nile.”  It’s always been one of my favorites. Most of my fellow travelers were Americans so they were overjoyed to see someone dissing Canada for a change. Oh, the brownie points I got!”

“Oh, for god’s sake! Can’t you be like a normal mother and wear designer clothes? This is just embarrassing.”

Taking her hurt feelings into account, I vowed the next day to wear something more sedate, more age appropriate. “Does this shirt work for you?” I asked Gill.

“‘I love Capetown’? When have you ever been to Capetown?” she demanded.

“Never. Crazy D brought this back for me after one of his round-the-world television shoots.”

“But Ma, I don’t think you’re supposed to wear a t-shirt if you haven’t been to the place yourself…I don’t think that’s in the accepted guidelines for t-shirt wearing…”

The next day I wore the “I Heart London” shirt that she gave me. She gawked at me. Before she opened her mouth to criticize, I beat her to the punch: “Perfectly within the regulations. I have been to London…40 years ago, but still valid.”

My latest acquisition was a B.C. shirt with a bear on it, a bright red addition to my collection this summer. I went with The Man In My Life to his family’s reunion. Every three years they have t-shirts made with the family tree on them, updated to include the latest family members. The tradition is that each family member brings and wears the t-shirt for a group photo of the clan.

My man is highly organized, makes lists, has everything planned down to the smallest detail. He forgot only one small item this year: the t-shirt. As everyone donned theirs, he discovered his was missing. Ever helpful, I suggested we hit the local gift shop to see if we could at least find something red so we could blend in if we stood behind other people. Fifty years from now, nobody will know we weren’t wearing the real thing.

All we could find were the bear shirts. He is tall so stood in the back with several people hiding his shirt. I, however, true to form since my days in kindergarten and the shortest person in class, stood near the front — with the children! When I turned slightly to one side, not much of the bear logo could be seen.

But upon reflection, I admit a bear isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever sported on my shirts. No questions please….