One of my students, a graduating senior, has taken it upon himself to fashion some sort of keepsake in honor of our time spent together. Some students might do woodcraft. Others, perhaps, would do beadcraft. Still others might find a nice picture, frame it, and distribute it to all interested parties.
Not so this student.
Rather than these pedestrian gifts, this student has suggested that a t-shirt be produced in my honor. Here is the "galley proof" of the shirt:
For those of you who are without interpretive abilities, allow me a brief explanation to unpack the subtleties of this creation.
Duns - for the students involved, this first word is rife with meaning. It evokes images of me blasting students with a SuperSoaker. It recalls the way I roll my eyes when inane comments are made. It reminds those familiar with my style of classroom management that I am not above pouring water on a sleeping student's head, chasing a senior out into the hall after he steals my collar tab, telling stories about the squirrel army that currently threatens to overrun the school, or - and most importantly - trying to present the Catholic faith in a way that is credible and joyful.
Squad - Well, it means group. I guess it could have been called the "Duns Clan" or the "Duns Assembly" but "Squad" works well. I don't think there is any particular meaning invested in this word choice but, in our postmodern culture, I'll leave it open to interpretation.
Finally there is a symbol: the hook.
For some, this might conjure images of Peter Pan's nemesis Captain Hook. For others it is synecdoche (pars pro toto) where the hook stands for an entire pirate.
While these both may be valid, they are not correct. The hook stands for a longstanding fascination of mine with the mythic figure of the Candyman, best represented in the 1992 classic "Candyman." The inimitable Tony Todd stars in this film, convincingly playing a former slave whose forbidden love with a white woman leads the townspeople to execute him by severing his hand and then coating him with honey, inciting a swarm of bees to sting him to death. Yet death cannot vanquish the fire of love and so, when the name Candyman is called out five times in the mirror, he is summoned from the grave. Unfortunately for those foolish enough to call upon him, he kills those who disturb him...so it would seem that there's no real way of warning others not to say Candyman five times because, if you do, you'll end up dead. It's a terribly vicious cycle.
My students know well of my abiding love for horror films and they were pleased not only that I had seen Candyman (many of them were born in 1992. I was very much alive then) but also that I had made the lore of Candyman (and its two sequels) something of a personal hobby. Hence the hook: it stands for none other than the Candyman.
I'm sure the color scheme of white-on-black intends to recall that 95% of the time that I'm seen in public I'm wearing clerics (the other 5% is reserved for the occasional Spirit Day when I wear a polo shirt or when they see me running or out to a restaurant or a movie).
I am flattered by this and I'll be sure to get a picture of the "Duns Squad" as soon as the shirts arrive.