The Magic Sweater

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I returned two sweaters today and one the day before.  All three sweaters are similar – funnel neck, wide cuffs, boxy shape.  They were all black or dark charcoal gray.  They were very nice sweaters.  They did the things a sweater should do.  For example, they were all warm.  But they were not THE sweater.

THE sweater is black.  It has a funnel neck, wide cuffs and a boxy shape.  It should be easy to replace.  But there is something wonderful about THE sweater that I cannot describe.  THE sweater makes me feel like I am dressed up or dressed down.  It makes me feel sleek and stylish and can be worn with jeans and boots, a skirt or yoga pants and still it is wonderful.

Or, I should say, WAS wonderful.  THE sweater has aged.  It is becoming A sweater.  It is losing its shape and pills of wool mar its surface.  I pick these off when I am bored, but I cannot reach them all.  I’ve attempted to remove them with the “sweater shaver” I purchased especially for the purpose.  The rehabilitation process is fruitless.

I’ve realized that THE sweater will join a long line of what I refer to as “magic” clothing.  This list includes a pink, shaker knit sweater with a deep v-neck (usually worn in the back,) a wheat colored chambray dress with dropped waist, pearl snaps and ruffled front, a navy dress I twisted when wet to achieve an extremely crumpled look.  There was a violet linen dress and a pair of sheer pink harem pants (don’t even ask).  There are, of course, lots of jeans, beginning with an acid washed pair with the zippered ankles and ending most recently with ones so often washed the fabric is tissue thin, the indigo faded to pale blue-gray.

I’ve realized you can’t go looking for the magic.  It just happens.  I didn’t know any of these items were magic when I bought them. But all of them, at some point, transformed into something more elevated than mere clothing.  Some of these items I’ve worn to death; others perished prematurely.  (The chambray dress was lost to a flooded Chicago basement. Heat and prolonged exposure to moisture encouraged mildewed designs as abstract and imprecise as a Jackson Pollock painting.)  Now, I can’t imagine wearing this dress – just as perhaps in months or years, I won’t be able to imagine my sweater.  I may have moved on from acid wash and harem pants, but the memories of these things and the girl or woman I was when I wore them stay with me.  The chambray dress took me through Thanksgiving with my first love, the navy blue, crinkled number showed off my collarbones to excellent advantage and swished around my cowboy boots making me feel like Annie Oakley, all cleaned up and ready to dance.

THE sweater.  THE dress.  THE jeans.

I am realizing more and more that whatever I wear, I am comfortable being me.  And that is magic.

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