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I’m wrapped in the filthy, blessed garment as I type. It’s the dingiest of creams and spotted with spilt coffee because I keep forgetting to take it to the dry cleaner.
The tag hand-stitched at the neck says, “FROM THE Knitting Needle” in a gold 1950’s script. It is too large, hits at mid-thigh, and I can hardly believe my barely 5 foot tall mother-in-law wore it in high school when she probably weighed a hundred pounds dripping wet.
She passed it on to me years ago after she’d cleaned her closet. I’m not sure why she thought of me when she held it that day, though ever since, I’ve wrapped myself in it like a prayer shawl, rarely closing the pearly buttons that run up its middle.
I love this sweater.
It is the steady knit of the woman who once wore it. Strong, small hands folding laundry. Loaves of pumpkin bread and pots of soup. Puzzles on the floor with little people. A bag that holds a new coat or a package of undies because she noticed the need.
And now it’s filled, too, with the scent of me. Early morning writing and tears of late night. The smell of lotion on one arm, hints of sweat and syrup on another.
Recently, I watched as each of my girls pressed her nose into her own blanket. Sici into Gee-Gee, knotted together like links of escape through a window. J into Pink Blankie with its velour dots and the frayed corner next to the tag, Lala into Lambie blanket’s fuzzy sheep head.
“It smells like me.”
“Yeah, right here. Like vanilla sugar. Just like me.”
“I love that smell. It’s so relaxing.”
In the rearview mirror, eyes closed long as each drew in a long sniff.
Me — I still sleep with my own childhood blanket, Bee, tucked safely under my pillow, pulling her free (yes, she’s a she) on nights when I can’t sleep, wrapping her around my face.
What is it about our own smells that comforts us?
This sweater — with its just right weight around my shoulders and the sleeves that insulate arms from the cold metal desk where I write — it is the blanket of me, of early mornings and late nights.
It wraps round in content and sorrow, in the daily repetitious hard and in large moments of surrender.
It reminds me when I hit the “publish” button and when I scoop yogurt and fasten a barrette in wispy hair.
This knit is the looping of words, smells, deeds, moments after another. This knit is the wrapping kind of love that lasts, stays close.
Through years, through days, knit purl, knit purl.
Every Monday, Amber Haines of The Runamuck, leads an exploration of voice in writing, in which we use concrete words to express the abstract. You would never regret a visit to Amber’s to read her glorious writing or that of the other writers and friends who link up there. This week’s piece began with the prompt “THE SWEATER.”
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I am so excited that you still have Bee!! I remember her. You took her on your honeymoon:) I can never smell my own smell in things, but I can other’s, and that is so comforting. After Doc died, all Kim wanted was his tee shirts, because she could smell him in them and it gave her comfort. I slept with his pillow. I love the comforts of smell and it saddens me when the person is gone, and the smell is too after a while. Memories are precious and give us hope and remind us of love!
Auntie, you gave me away! Yes, I did indeed bring Bee, but kept her in the suitcase…for what that’s worth. Sheesh. :-) How interesting what you say about not being able to smell your own scent, but that of others. Oh, Aunt Claudia, so struck by the sweetness, sadness and painful beauty of Uncle Doc’s smell wrapped up in those t-shirts, and precious Kim holding them close. And you with the pillow. Thank you so much for sharing those sacred memories. I love you dearly.
OK, here we go again…are you getting tired of this gushing yet? I l o v e d this piece! The sweater so big that comes from the dearest woman so small; the blankets we treasure because they smell like us, and the smell of us is a comfort somehow (like vanilla sugar); and how we can prize something with its stains and tattered edges…doesn’t that speak volumes? Yes, and you always do! I so loved this piece! (and i so love you. mama)
You’re right, there is something so special about prizing the stained and tattered, Mama. Reminds me of the Velveteen Rabbit — the imperfect is what makes them really real.
I love how this so very “real” sweater, the syrup and stain, provides you such covering and comfort. Kind of like my favorite jeans: ripped and frayed, best give me confidence to be the bravest me.
We have had our share of “blankies” around here…I think, however, the last one has finally disintegrated.
Oh, the day the blankets disintegrate…we’re on our way I suppose :-( though I have to say mine’s held on better than expected after 38 years. And you and your jeans — the confidence they give, I love that, Kim.
i love your pride for BEE! i have lemutt still too. tucked inbetween bras and sockies. my girls have aussie and flossie. i wish they smelled like vanilla sugar :) love that your other mother gave you that sweater. she thought of you treasuring something warm and made with love. happy monday buddy. thanks for the sweet words today! xoxo k
Yes, LeMutt! Us and our sleepovers with all our treasured friends. :-) Haha! So Aussie and Flossie don’t smell like vanilla sugar, huh? Ours don’t always either…more like other life smells, if you know what I mean. About the sweater — you’re so right about my other mother giving me something warm, made with love. She’s just like that.
Oh dear, this reminds me of my little pillow. I have been sleeping with a little pillow on my head since I was a toddler and even now, if I only have one pillow to sleep on, it will be on my head. When I got married my mom thought that I would bury that habit, for my pillow had seen much better times a few years ago already. Not so, for I bought a new lacy one for the honeymoon which I also only replaced when there was nearly nothing left of the once beautiful pillow. Yes, that comfy smell brings so much memories, some happy, many teary ones, but still ful of comfort.
Oh, Mia. That’s so dear. I’m often struck by the sweetness of those sleeping habits — making their way through years. My girl holding her arms over her head the same way she did as a baby. The way my husband and my first-born sleep the same way. I love the thought of you with that changing, but the same pillow, covering your sweet head.
Great word weaving. Amazing how the more we think and write in the abstraction of the concrete in our world, the more we see these remnants of living stuck on the things around us. Like life magnets, they pick up the pieces, smells, and tastes of our being. You do this with such eloquence. I am there, I am right there with you. And as always it is warm, it is welcoming, and I am crazy for your words.
You are so right about these life magnets! I am amazed by the life in the inanimate and have loved exploring this with you and the other lovelies. What joy in being wrapped in each other’s sweaters for a while.
Truly incredible writing…I love all your descriptions which make us feel & smell your special sweater, your girls’ blankets, & even your BEE blanket (love that you let this secret out)! Though things don’t “make us”, they so often do bring us comfort, memories, & a glimpse at who we are.
I still have my “R” quilt & the stuffed cat I called “Gund” I slept with while growing up (he was left in both an airplane & a hotel on different occasions & mailed back to us), though they have both been packed away for years. Aubrey has her “lamby” & Elias is still determining what his “special thing” is.
Thank you for sharing your R and Gund with us. Oh my goodness, you must have been undone by the loss of Gund (did it get that name because it was a Gund-made cat? I loved those stuffed animals!). It sounds like your parents were persistent in getting it back for you…so sweet, these things we do for our children. And our, ahem, spouses. I left Bee in a hotel many states away about 12 years ago and had Mike make many phone calls before it was back home with me. It was after that experience that I decided I probably needed to start traveling without it. :-) A few years later I decided I needed to stop sleeping regularly with it. :-)
Yes, he is a “Gund” brand stuffed cat my grandparents got for me when I was two I believe & he is “well-loved”…that’s crazy about Mike having to track down your blanket since you’ve been married! :)
Oh, friend. I read all the comments and feel that I have nothing to say as well as they all said it, for truly, this is “word weaving” and brilliant and nostalgic and real. And I love this: “And now it’s filled, too, with the scent of me. Early morning writing and tears of late night.” This makes me think of a pillow I love, made from a shirt that once held the scent of my Dad and now holds the scent of me and my tears and all the scents I haven’t put into words. You are such a gifted writer.
Oh, Amber. Thank you for sharing of your pillow made from your dad’s shirt. The scent of your dad, the scent of you and your tears and all the scents not put into words…that mingling is heartbreakingly beautiful, friend. Bless you and thank you for all your words.
Such a beautiful, nostalgic piece. So glad to be getting to know you through Amber’s place. :)
And you, too, Danelle. Thanks for being here.
You are one of a kind with words, love “The sweater”. Thank you for the praise and love. Opening boxes closed up for years I still smell Tom’s scent on his clothes long packed away but not forgotten. Mom
You are most deserving of all of it…and much more, Mom.
After these years…I can imagine those smells of Tom still bring with them a rush of feelings and remembrances. Such a tender metaphor, those clothes in the box. Like your memories — sealed inside, filled with the scent of love, not forgotten.
I just want to hit “like” like on Facebook. :) Heart too full to write much but thank you again. Love the everyday hard among the others. The recognition flooding in again, whooshing me away with your words, images and knowing. :) Love to read your words and feel like I just gush too but had to share, just like you. :)
E, your presence here is always such a sweet gift. I love that mingled up in the everyday hard is also the encouragement…all these dear words from you and others that I read, feeling wrapped up cozy. And here I am typing back to you — in the very same sweater. The circle continues… :)
Oh do I remember Bee! A truly loyal friend who has borne tears, was privy to
secrets and excitement. Age caught up to Bee many years ago but she stills provides re-assurance and warm comfort. Sleep well tonight sweet Ashley!
You’ve known Bee from the beginning. A good and loyal friend is right! And sweet dreams to you too, Papa.
You find gratitude in things big and small, and it’s infectious. Thank you!
Thanks, Deb! I’m so thankful for the opportunities to give thanks and to receive the grateful presence of others.