Every morning when I open my closet I see the sleeve of that sweater. It hangs there….as ugly as it ever was. Time hasn’t changed the color, texture or style. It remains the garnet, black and white striped monstrosity that is was on the day I first saw you in January 1993. You remembered that day as clearly as I did.. just from your perspective. You remembered a young girl talking to the person you assumed was her boyfriend. You remembered hearing her whisper and laugh with him about an inside joke. You later told me that you were jealous and trying to figure out how serious that guy and I were and if you had a chance.
My first memory of you: I remember talking to my best friend and getting details of his proposal to his new fiancé. I remember my friend telling me that the new guy was watching us and that he thought that I should give you a chance. I tried not to be obvious about sneaking a look at you. But there you were. You were sitting on an awful yellow, 70’s throwback sofa in the student lounge. You were wearing a garnet, black and off-white striped sweater.
From across the room, I could tell that it wasn’t a soft sweater. It looked like one of those things you just throw on without much thought other than it was clean and matched your jeans. O, and those jeans…..You were wearing a pair of white jeans and black shoes. But that sweater... you must have been on the way to a tailgate party for the USC Gamecocks. And upon realizing that you didn’t own a stitch of garnet and black, you ran to the nearest store and bought the first thing you saw. I couldn’t help but think that someone should do you a favor and throw those jeans and that sweater away.
In February, you asked me out. On February 18th, 1993 we had our first date. To my disbelief, you were wearing that sweater and those jeans on our first date. I told my dorm mates that night that I was going to marry you…despite that sweater. Thankfully, you were not wearing it when you proposed on April 18th. And it didn’t appear at our wedding on July 3rd of the same year. But it was always hanging on the closet.
Throughout the years of our marriage, I tried numerous times to rid your closet of that hideous sweater. You gave in on the jeans within the first few months of our relationship. But you refused to give up that sweater. You even bought a decoy from a thrift store and hid the original. O, this sense of victory I felt - I thought I had finally successfully removed that sweater from our lives around the time our second son was born in 1996.
But to my dismay, I discovered the truth when we moved to Nashville in 2003. There it was tucked into a box with your collection of movie tickets, fortunes from cookies, cards and other miscellaneous pieces of paper that you were determined to keep. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry at finding it. But I closed the box and left it there. And there it stayed as we moved from Nashville to Dallas and then to St Louis. It resided in the boxes labeled “J’s Books” until 2011.
When we bought our home in St. Charles, that box made it to the corner of your closet. I decided that I would call a truce on that sweater and allow it to peacefully reside on a hanger in the very back of your closet. After all, that sweater had been a member of the family for eighteen years at that point. It was older than our children and still looked as good as it did the first time I saw it. Well, it looked as good as an ugly, stiff sweater could.
That sweater hung out with your collection of plaid shirts and an even larger collection of t-shirts until I packed it for my solo move back to South Carolina in July 2015. You see, I lied to a few friends that asked how I packed up your things. I told everyone that I looked into your closest every morning and pulled out the item I disliked the most and put it in a box. Eventually, your closest and your dresser were empty. Most of your clothing was boxed and donated. Your plaid shirt collection and your t-shirt collection was placed in containers for storage until I could decide whether to make a quilt or make some hipsters really happy to have vintage plaid shirts. But that sweater was/is still the exception.
When I moved to my new home and to my new life without you, that sweater followed me. I’m not sure why I put it in a box of my clothes instead of putting in the box with your t-shirts or the box with your plaid collection. It should have been packed away along with your movies, books and cd’s that I am holding for our boys. Better yet, it should have found its way to a donation box. But instead, it found its way onto a hanger and into my closet. And every now and again, I catch a glimpse of the sleeve. And I smile now instead of cry.
One day it may go into the donation box to stay. But until then, the sweater hanging in my closet is there as a reminder of the love we had and all the wonderful memories, adventures and misadventures we shared.