After two months of excessive heat, it suddenly feels like October in Southern California. I know it’s officially fall when I pull my old blue sweatshirt out of the drawer and don it for the first time, which I did last evening. I came downstairs all cozy and warm, relishing it’s feel for the first time in months, and sat down on the couch next to Scott.
“Oh no!” he said.
I don’t think he meant, “Oh no,” as in, “Why are you wearing that ratty old thing when you have newer sweatshirts and sweaters that would keep you just as warm?” Although, if he were another man, he might have meant that. I mean, look at this thing! Ratty is putting it kindly:
The neckline binding is ripped out. There are perma-stains on the front. It’s several sizes too big for me, and I freely admit most people would have consigned it to the rag bag long ago. But not me. And here’s why:
My old blue sweatshirt used to be Scott’s, long before he and I met. When we moved in together, I got cold one evening, and he lent it to me. I never gave it back. It had his essence, his smell, his feel to it. I loved it because it was his.
My old blue sweatshirt kept me toasty warm when Scott and I took our first camping trip together. It was the first weekend of April, 2009, and it was cold on the California Central Coast, camping among the giant redwoods in Big Sur. It was my first trip up the coast since moving to California, and it was this trip that made me fall in love with my new home state. We saw elephant seals on the beach, and waves crashing through rock windows on the shore. We saw whales and sea otters. And I realized for the first time just how beautiful and wild California was.
My old blue sweatshirt was on my back the first time Scott took me camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We went to Sequoia National Park; it was Father’s Day weekend. We went with a bunch of his—now our—friends, and took our first hike to Tokopah Falls. I was flabbergasted when I first saw the falls; they cascade down the mountain for more than 1,200 feet! I laughed at the comical marmots who populate the rocks around the falls, and have become totally accustomed to having people around. And I saw my first California black bear, my spirit animal. These mountains, the mighty Sierra, were not my beloved Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. These enormous peaks are mere babies compared to the Smokies, which once towered higher than the Himalayas, according to geologists. But I could feel myself falling in love with these towering behemoths, these rocky crags; I could hear the mountains whispering in my ear, “You’re home.”
It wasn’t just the good times, though, that made my old blue sweatshirt beloved by me. I wore it daily in the rehabilitation center—really, a nursing home—after my knee replacement surgery December 23, 2010. On Christmas day, when most people were dressed in holiday finery and gathering around dining room tables with family and friends, I wore that sweatshirt over a hospital gown and ate little at all, I was in so much pain. The old blue sweatshirt enveloped me like a hug, keeping me safe and warm. When I was released from the nursing home at the end of January, I was wearing that sweatshirt. I think at some point Scott must have coaxed it off of me so he could wash it, but I don’t remember. All I remember is practically living on our couch for six weeks because I could not yet navigate the stairs, and how cold our house was (we have no heat). I huddled under a pile of blankets in my old blue sweatshirt, watching reruns of Law and Order SUV and Criminal Minds in the middle of the night, when pain in my knee kept me awake. The sweatshirt next to my skin made me feel like Scott was right next to me rather than upstairs, sound asleep in our bed.
My old blue sweatshirt has been soaked in the ocean when I slipped in the tide pools, and covered with blowing sand in the desert. It’s been snowed on, rained on, peed on by puppies and thrown up on by kitties. The sleeves have dusted furniture and caught drips from a slow-leaky nose. I’ve gotten paint on it, printer ink on it, spilled olive oil and nail polish remover on it. It doesn’t mind, and it pert near always washes clean.
My old blue sweatshirt has traveled to Big Sur and Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree, to San Francisco, San Diego, and back home to my native Chicago. It’s been my clothing of choice for walks along the beach and walks around our woody hill; for watching TV on a chilly, rainy evening and for meditating on my back deck while the sun crept up over the mountains.
So yesterday, when I put it on for the first time this autumn and Scott said, “Oh no,” I don’t believe he meant “Go change out of that ratty thing,” or “What, that hasn’t fallen apart yet?”
No, he didn’t think those things. I think what went through his mind was, “Oh no—what sort of mischief will that old blue sweatshirt get us into this time?”
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