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December 14, 2006

Every winter there comes a time when they come out.  Like brightly colored critters neatly folded into summer hibernation, I pull them from the basket they are kept in and lovingly select my favorites from the pile.  My sweaters.  A rare article to be worn by this southern Texas girl, I always find myself donning the first one of the season in eager anticipation.  The supple yarn drifting over my curves, not too tight, and not too loose.  Like a drift of fresh snow, my outline is softened, flaws forgiven, and curves suddenly less angular and harsh.

I have a love hate relationship with my sweaters.  Though I adore wearing them, I hate washing them.  Hand washing is hard on me, both mentally and physically.  I become frustrated with how long it takes for them to dry, during which they are laying about taking up space.  And the squeezing required for hand washing can only go on for so long before my joints begin to ache.  Hand washing makes me feel old, and as often as not my soft sweaters dry out as stiff as my joints on a winter’s morning.  Using a machine has its own drawbacks, though.  I worry about the yarn getting tangled in the machine, and the dryer does not treat soft yarn with gentle hands.  More often than not, I compromise by washing the sweaters on the gentle cycle and laying them out to dry.  An imperfect system, but it works well enough.

But there is a secret hidden in my sweaters.  Among the bright yarns are darker, more subdued colors.  Deep green next to emerald, soft beige next to bright white, bulky black next to crimson.  Though I will sometimes wear these sweaters in weak moments, they are not mine.  They are detritus.  Evidence of relationships past.  Driftwood on a beach whose sand is made up of the glass shards of hearts I have broken.  Shards that I have worn smooth over the years with handling, rubbing away the sharp edges of the relationship, until only a fond ache remains.

Wrapped up in each sweater is not just the threads of spun cotton, but also the threads of those who loved and lost them to me.  The spun silk of memories I treasure, and bulky wool threads of the mournful moments when I would don these sweaters in a moment of sorrow, or loss, or loneliness.  Sometimes I think I should give them back.  Sometimes I think I should give them away.  But mostly I touch them in passing, reminding myself of the men who once wore them, and thinking of how the pattern of the lives we were knitting together fell apart.

And so I have my sweaters.  Memories nestled among simple pleasures.  I pick them out on cold mornings, running my hands over them, feeling for which one I should wear that day.  Blue for the redheaded girl who was my Santa that Christmas?  Purple for the man whose heart I broke?  Or red for the sisters who only want me for me to have beautiful things?  It doesn’t really matter where the bright ones came from.  Only where they are going, and the possibility that they will help me to find a new skein.

Kinda makes me wish I could knit.

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