My Mom’s Sweater

Not long before Christmas, I was visiting my mother’s house for the weekend, and she emerged from the bedroom one morning wearing a blue sweater I’d never seen before. It was denim blue, cable knit, with a couple of odd denim patch pockets on the front just over the waist and a denim collar. I suspect an acid wash might have come into this sweater’s life at some point before it ended up on whatever rack my mom found it on. It wasn’t the most unlikely-looking thing I’d have expected to see her wear, but it certainly made the list, somewhere between a clown suit and pink fishnet stockings.

Let me explain.

When I was in high school, in the unlamented ’80s, I had a sweater very much like this one, except it was black and the obligatory acid wash that was applied to everything after 1985 turned the cable stitch slightly white. I was extremely skinny back then, and the sweater was a comfortably oversized M, which meant I got to wear it all the way through college, even after it had gone out of style. It was something of a security blanket by then, and I’d also had the damn thing so long, the whitish acid wash had faded to a more fashionably acceptable gray. I think it’s still in the spare room, in a drawer not 20 feet from where I sit right now. I’m also sure it still fits. I’ve had 20 years to grow into a Medium.

My mother hated this sweater.

She hated this sweater the way I hate certain fashions that have long since outlived their usefulness, like neons, jelly shoes, and sweatpants with words printed across the ass. I don’t even remember why, unless it was because the sweater hung on my (then) pronounced shoulder blades the same way an old flannel shirt hangs on a scarecrow. The more she hated it, the more I loved it, and vice versa, which was probably the entire point. It went with everything: I could put a turtleneck or an Oxford or a thermal shirt under it and still have room to hide a kitten if I’d needed to. If I’d been the tiniest bit less enamored of this sweater, I’m sure she’d have spirited it away and said the washing machine ruined it, or the dog shat on it, or She Just Didn’t Know Where It Was, which happened to many things my mom didn’t like when I lived at home.

And now, 20 years later, she had on a blue sweater that could’ve been the first cousin of my old cable knit favorite.

So who could’ve resisted the impulse to do what I did?

“Wow!” I said, beaming. “I love that sweater!”

Mom looked momentarily surprised, then pleased. “Thank you,” she said, smoothing the front of it. “I just got it last week. It’s very comfortable, too.”

“It looks great on you,” I said. It didn’t look bad on her, but great might’ve been an overstatement. The color suited her, anyway.

“Well, maybe you can wear it sometime when you’re here,” she said, and I agreed, and that, I thought, was the end of that.

This weekend I stopped by her house again for the first time since Christmas, and while we were talking she said, “Oh, I almost forgot, your uncle X and aunt Y sent you a couple of presents.”

I hardly ever see my favorite uncle and his wife, and I hadn’t even considered that they might have sent me more than a card this year, so I followed Mom to the spare room, where a couple of boxes in Christmas paper sat on the bed, waiting for me.

I opened the small one first: a couple of red lipsticks, a gift with which no one who knows me has ever gone wrong. Then I opened the larger box, and there, beneath the festive green tissue paper, was…

…the same blue sweater my mom had.

“Whoa,” I said. If the sweater had reached out and slapped me, I couldn’t’ve been more surprised.

“I told them how much you liked mine,” Mom said. “Turns out they get the same catalog I got mine from.”

“Wow,” I said. “I never would’ve guessed.”

Somewhere, just beyond the sound of the wind, I can still hear God laughing at me.

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14 Responses to “My Mom’s Sweater”

  1. jojovtx1800 Says:

    hehehe, nice sweater you got there.

  2. madamedonna Says:

    OUCH. The last thing in life I would ever do is wear something similar to what my mother would wear. I’m shaking just considering that idea.

  3. Ha! That’s great.

  4. pandemonic Says:

    I’m with Madamedonna. Although my mom was a purveyor of transparent shirts. No, I mean REALLY transparent shirts. I’m hot, but I’m not that hot.

  5. I can hear God laughing at you all the way over here!

  6. He’s still laughing — makes me wonder what’s coming next!

    I should also mention how totally unlike my mom this is. She usually has really good taste in clothes, and has stuff I do borrow occasionally… which makes it even funnier when something like this happens. To her. Not to me…

  7. Ameboid — good to see you again!

  8. TheOtherIvy Says:

    I don’t know if God is laughing but I am. 😉
    This is a very familiar theme. The circumstances are different but I recognize the feeling that must have come with getting the sweater at the end.

  9. Yeah — I know that feeling very well. It happens to me a LOT.

  10. Life’s little ironies make for good blogging. 🙂

  11. I’ve been there, done that…it’s funny where things will send you isn’t it?

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