I’m trying to decide what to do with this old, white sweater.
It was new once. I bought it to go with a navy, short-sleeved top and a longish, blue striped skirt–a whole outfit that I hadn’t sewed myself. That was 20 years ago.
At first, it was a special occasion outfit, and I kept all three pieces together. Mostly I wore it to church, which was just about the only special occasion I had when my kids were young and money was tight. Eventually I wore the sweater with jeans or pants, and I paired something else with the skirt. The sweater was white, and I always lived in fear that I’d stain it with something permanent.
I posed for pictures in the complete outfit twice that I remember: once sitting on the back steps for a photo to send to a friend, and once with my black lab Magnum.
Magnum was the first to break up the set. An old dog when I got the outfit, he died a year or two later. After a few years, the skirt disappeared, probably outgrown, I’m sorry to say. The navy top lasted much longer, fading a bit more year after year until finally it became something to wear while working in the garden, and was eventually tossed out during a seasonal clothes switch.
The sweater has remained, although the thin shoulder pads it once sported were discarded long ago. It became the topper for other skirts and pants, and then something I wore only around the house. As the years passed, its pristine whiteness grayed, and somewhere along the line it picked up a coffee stain on one cuff, and a splotch of something unidentifiable near one of the pewter buttons.
Those buttons themselves are a marvel in that they stayed put. Good thing, because I never would have found anything to match them, and would have had to replace them all if I’d lost one. At one time, I thought I’d cut the buttons off and save them if I ever tossed the sweater. Now, though, they’ve lost their smooth finish, their polished appeal. The edges are rough and uneven, nibbled on by time and wear as children nibble cookies.
Three years ago, it was that once-white sweater I grabbed to wear over a t-shirt when I started a mailroom job, twice a week, at the local paper. It was November, and here in the north, a t-shirt under a coat is chilly. I wasn’t worried about that sweater any more. The sleeves turned gray as newsprint rubbed off week after week, refusing to totally rejuvenate despite weekly washings. I tossed it without a thought onto dingy tables and into dusty corners as my work pace dictated I shed a layer.
On Wednesdays after work, the sweater back on, George and I headed for the grocery store. Where once I was proud to wear that sweater, now I worried that someone would wonder where I got the grungy old thing, and why I always had it on.
Last month, we resigned our mail room job. The physical labor was beginning to take a toll on my body. It had long ago taken its toll on my old white sweater.
So now it hangs, washed and on a hanger, in my closet. Its future looks bleak. Something to wear in the garden, perhaps? The sweater, having been around as long it has, knows that’s the last stop for aging clothing.
That sweater has accompanied me on moves to two more states and through several life changes. It has weathered the culling that went with all of that. It has served me well. Tossing it would be like tossing out memories. Maybe I’ll just retire it to pasture, so to speak, like an aging but well-loved race horse.
It’s a slim, worn old sweater. It won’t take up much room in the closet.