When my parents had three girls, they decided to get very creative, and come up with names for us which started with the same letters: Karla Bernice, Kendra Belle, and Kimberly Berdine.
At first, I had no issues with this, but after awhile, we found out how difficult it was to all have the same initials. Anything labelled “KBD” could belong to any one of us, so we started going with “Kar”, “Ken”, and “Kim”. To this day, whenever one of my sisters calls me “Ken”, I am instantly home. I’m a kid again, and everything is the way it used to be, for just a second.
Anyway, this is the story of how I came to have the name “Ken” embroidered on all of my underwear, and what happened when my labelled underwear got misplaced…
When I was younger, my mom would buy identical packages of Kmart underwear for my sister and me. They were all the same color, but not quite the same size. This made it extremely difficult for my mom when doing the laundry. After much confusion, she finally got fed up with the time wasted in trying to figure out which underwear belonged to whom, and announced that we would have to label our underwear.
My sister just flat-out refused to, but I obediently went to get my cross-stitch kit, picked out the prettiest shade of green embroidery thread I could find, and neatly stitched “Ken” into each pair of panties.
photo © 2011 Lisa Risager , Flickr
As a result, my mom was happy on laundry days, and everything seemed fine. Having labelled underwear always kind of bugged me, because I was so worried about somebody seeing it and making fun of me, but other than that, life went on pretty well…
…until I graduated, and went to camp.
Suddenly, I was having to do my laundry in a very public place. All 50 summer staff members used the same washers and dryers to do their laundry, and it became my greatest fear that I would somehow overlook my underwear when emptying the dryer, and those labelled panties would end up in the wrong hands.
I became extremely conscientious about checking each washing machine and dryer after doing my loads of laundry to make sure I left nothing behind.
Every time I did my laundry, I thought about how I really just needed to get a pair of scissors, and cut out that stupid embroidery thread. It was one of those things I never seemed to get around to, though, and I made it through a few months of doing my laundry without any disasters.
The week before my birthday, I did my laundry as usual, but when my last load was ready to come out of the dryer, I was tied up with something in my cabin. My friend whom we’ll call Danae, offered to grab my load of laundry for me. I gratefully accepted her offer, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “Oh, no – I hope she checks the dryer to make sure she gets everything!”
I forgot about it, though, and went on with my week of counseling in my cabin.
On Saturday, all of my little campers went home to be reunited with their families, and I was free to enjoy the weekend with my friends. Because it was my birthday that Saturday, Danae announced she was taking me out for supper.
As we were getting ready to leave for the restaurant, one of my friends whom we’ll call Nathan, came up to me and said, “Kendra, I really need to talk with you. Privately.”
I had no idea what he might be wanting to talk about, but I explained that I was just getting ready to leave, and I would talk with him when I got back.
Danae and I had a wonderful time over our chicken fingers and fries, and I drank many glasses of water as we lingered at the restaurant before returning to camp.
By the time we got back, I needed a washroom fairly urgently, and went running through the main lodge on my way to relieve myself.
As I was running, Nathan tried to stop me with a fairly panicked look on his face. “Kendra, I REALLY need to talk with you. It’s kind of important!”
He looked very uncomfortable, and I felt bad to turn him away for the second time, but as I was having a difficult time controlling my urgent need for a bathroom, I had no choice but to insist that our conversation would have to wait.
When I came back from the washroom, Nathan was gone, and I decided not to worry about his problem, whatever it was.
On Sunday mornings at camp, we always had a church service, and then ate lunch together as staff. I was sitting in the lounge with friends, waiting for lunch to start, when Nathan burst into the circle of girls I was sitting with, thrust an envelope into my hand, and said, in what seemed like a slightly wild, desperate voice,“I’ve been trying to give this to you in private, but you wouldn’t let me!”
At this point, I was really beginning to wonder what was wrong with Nathan.
Why was he so persistent? What could he possibly want to give me in private?
As it had just been my birthday the day before, I opened the envelope and pulled out the contents, completely expecting some kind of birthday gift from Nathan.
And there I sat in that crowded room of people, holding up a pair of underwear with that green embroidery thread proclaiming me as their owner.
I do not get embarrassed easily, but I’m sure my face was red as I stuffed that miserable pair of underwear back into the envelope. One of my friends beside me said, “Oh, that’s what Nathan was stuffing into your mailbox yesterday. He was using a pencil so he didn’t have to touch them.”
Suddenly Nathan’s desperate pleas for communication were all starting to make sense….
It turned out that he had kept my underwear in his cabin for an entire week, trying to figure out how to return them to me. He admitted the name “Ken” had thrown him off for a bit, seeing as he didn’t know any girls by that name, but he’d finally figured out that they belonged to me.
He had put them into my mailbox on the weekend, but when I didn’t check my mail, he began to get worried about who might all notice there were panties jammed into my box.
So he took them back out, and finally presented them to me publicly (which was so much better than just leaving them in my mailbox..!?)
That very day, I got out a pair of scissors, and removed every trace of embroidery thread from my underwear.
And I learned a very important lesson: Be careful what you put your name on.
I’m talking about so much more than panties here. Be careful what you claim as yours. Be careful what you broadcast as being connected to you. You have no idea when something’s going to slip, and end up in the wrong hands. You have no idea when someone will be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When you live your life in a way that’s above reproach, you can have a clean conscience. You don’t need to worry how people will interpret things. Misunderstandings can usually be cleared up, if you haven’t been making careless mistakes.
Basically, I’m saying that those silly panties kind of taught me about integrity. What have I labelled? What has my name on it? Where is it going to go? Is my conscience clear?
If I can answer “yes” to those questions, then I can breathe easy, and stop “checking the dryer” repeatedly, wondering when someone’s going to catch me.
Have you ever been caught in an embarrassing situation you could have avoided? Anything out there you wish you didn’t have your name on?