Flannel And Magnolia

It’s somewhat strange how my love for flannel shirts came about. I think it initially had a lot to do with the resurgence of a modern spin of the style of the 1970's. While the height of that resurgence is definitely gone, I just can’t stop wearing flannel.

On a personal and fashion level, its pretty much the optimal outfit for most of the year. If you get too hot, you can take the flannel off. If the temperature drops drastically, keep wearing your flannel and add a jacket. It’s pretty much the coffee of outfits.

Yet, flannel has a spiritual and emotional significance to me as well. When I think of flannel only one man in my life comes to mind: my Paw-Paw.

Come to think of it, I remember seeing my Paw Paw wearing some sort of flannel shirt the majority of my life. As I grow older, I’m starting to become more and more convinced that he taught me to love the fabric as well.

It’s always interesting to see the fashion styles and attitudes of generations that have gone before you. Some folks change their attitude and style as they grow older, while others frankly stop giving a shit and just wear what they always have. I like to think that my Paw-Paw belonged to the later category.

Though it sounds generically Southern, my Paw-Paw was a hardworking farmer who was born and raised in the South. He and my Me-Maw lived for the majority of their marriage in a small house hidden behind a giant magnolia tree. Yet, this wasn’t just any magnolia tree. It was the stuff of legends, romance novels, and bad country songs. As I kid, I never thought much of the organism. In the modern day, it makes me want to cry. If someone ever chops it down, I want to keep a piece of it like the Berlin Wall. It has an historical-like significance to it.

A large part of my fascination and reverence for the tree comes from the kindness and preservation of a man of fought til the end. The man, was one of the most genuine and soft spoken people I’ve ever met.

People in church talk about grace, love, and forgiveness a lot sometimes. These things kind of become ideals of how we treat people in the South. Southerns often exhibit these characteristics on the outside, but when you live with a Southerner the truth comes out.

My Paw Paw had flaws like any man, but I am yet to this day to meet a more loving man with a heart of gold. My mom tells me that he used to be a lot more angry and hash when he was younger. I’m sure that was the truth, but the man I knew all of my life was a legend.

I know that a lot of people tend to repeat the phrase: “You should never meet your heroes.” What’s weird about my Paw Paw is that he was the right kind of hero: The one you didn’t notice until he was gone.

Maybe that’s what’s missing. We’re always looking for heroes, but sometimes our criteria is a bit off. We want something cool, slick and polished. What’s cool about a old man who can barely walk still making it to church every Sunday? The beauty lies on the inside. These people suddenly go from family that you love-no-matter-what to people you admire as well.

I’m not sure if my Paw Paw was aware about social media and angry people on the internet when he died. Yet, I hope he’d be proud of the man he helped me become.

Here’s to you, Paw-Paw. You’ve left a legacy worth talking about.

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