Sunday, June 1, 2014

The L.L Bean Towel

My cousin is graduating from high school next week and is getting an LL Bean Locker Room towel from me. Here's the note that will be in the box to explain a seemingly random gift.

The Tale of the Towel


Congratulations! As you make your journey out into the world, I am arming you with a towel.

"A towel?" I hear you thinking, "that's a little strange, but I suppose functional," before moving onto the next card. 

But Wait. 

It's not just any towel.

The green-striped "locker room" towel with L.L. Bean's logo blazoned is one you've seen around your own house a few times. It's over at my house, too.

You see, the tale of this towel started 31 years ago when your mom graduated from high school. My parents thought an L.L. Bean towel would be the perfect dorm room accompaniment for uber-preppy Hamilton.

It may have stopped there, but 17 years ago, when I graduated from high school, your mom started a tradition.

I opened up her graduation present and saw the towel with the note, just like you do right now. 

(Ok, so you only see a note because the darn towel is currently backordered, making this whole thing less storied, but it will be here well before you make your way to SMU, L.L. Bean assures me.)

Back in 1997, your mom had owned her towel 14 years. It was with her all through college, through her post-college moves, when she met your dad, got married, and had you. Her note said that she was drying you off with it one night after bathtime and thought, "Wow. This towel and I have been through a lot."

Since Holy Cross is equally as preppy as Hamilton, she decided to send me off with the same gift my parents bestowed upon her.

It is 2014 and I have had my towel for 17 years. I'm willing to bet your mom's is in better shape than mine despite being twice as old. Mine is a little bit pink from an unfortunate washing machine incident with the reds, has a tiny hole in it from that one time my roommate and I tried to put together furniture and used it to soften the hammer blows in our tiny Boston apartment, and has some light gray stains on it whose origin I cannot even guess.

However, I still have it. 

It survived four years at Holy Cross and I am happy towels can't talk. It was there when I moved to Boston and met Nick and still hanging around when we decided to move to Chicago together. When we packed up for Louisville, it made its way into the U-Haul. When we were married it made a cozy home for itself among the registry linens and towels, happy for a rest while the new things were used. When we unpacked in Dallas and Nick asked if I still wanted it, I shot lasers at him from my eyes and screamed, "Do NOT get rid of that!" and now, it is frequently employed when T wants to play "cape." 

And now, it's your turn. 

J, I think your towel will fit in nicely with the prep-sters over at SMU, but it's just the start of your journey. As your life unfolds before you, the towel will hang from your bed, on a doorknob, or be quietly tucked away in a closet.

Everytime you reach for it, it will serve as a reminder of where you've been, who you've met, and how far you've come since the day you opened this box.

Someday, maybe when your two-year-old is using it as a cape, you will be nostalgic for that time it hung in your dorm room but so happy to find yourself in the present. 

And that's the magic of the towel. It will force you to look back and be thankful for what was, while being happy and fulfilled with where you are. May you always be able to do that.  

Best of luck. You are going to do great things.


  1. Damn, this got me all sappy and teary eyed this morning. What a fun tradition!!

    1. You know, me too and I wasn't expecting it. I was just trying to write him a light, fun note and it got all serious. Who knew!?

  2. I want my own LL Bean Locker room towel now!

    1. Apparently they are quite the popular item. Backordered until July!