I have a sweater; a threadbare Irish knit straight from County Cork and covertly smuggled through 1970s US Customs on the back of my thrifty, albeit felonious grandmother, Jane. Yes; she knew better, but she did it for more than the obvious thrill-junkie lure of contraband European craftsmanship. It wasn’t bragging rights at bridge club or the scornful yet satisfying glares of the bible study holy rollers that drove her to theft; it was a sale, too good to pass up! A genetic trait I share.
Thanksgiving, sometime in the 1990s Sweatergate revealed itself through the aid of turkey haze and Jane’s holiday oxygen – champagne. She was a small woman; it was a big bottle, things happen. My oldest son, barely walking, managed to wobble his way into her closet – he had an endearing love of Bewitched-inspired, pleather wedge slippers; very retro-toddler.
As I sat on the floor, cajoling him to rejoin the family with the promise of pie, we heard Dom-dreamy Jane approach. It wasn’t hard, bubbly always made her musical – today’s choice, her go to Que Sera, Sera. (Loud enough to make The Man Who Knew to Much forget his own name.)
“Oh, there you are; shoe shopping?”
“Yes; he’s torn between the slippers and Poppy’s wingtips.” I shivered. My grandparents saw heat as elitist comfort.
She dug behind the 75 empty dry cleaning bags and cackled. “Here, take this sweater, doesn’t fit me. Funny story…”
And there it was – her moment of shame dressed in a closet full of wicker pocketbooks and laughter. Hallmark Channel will never wage a bidding war for the rights to Calamity Jane’s big raincoat and faux bladder emergency run past customs, but it’s a memory I cherish, and today, needed.
In days where evil blankets every corner of the world and every facet of media, we look for something, anything to remind ourselves there is good, there is laughter, and there is joy and love in the darkest of times. For me, comfort comes in the form of illegally imported wool.
When the towers fell, I wore the sweater. When a gunman murdered innocent movie goers in Colorado, I wore the sweater. When Oregon college students were executed for being Christian, I wore the sweater. When 26 innocent women and schoolchildren were massacred in my hometown, I wore the sweater. And today, as Paris mourns the massive loss of life at the hands of terrorism, I wear the sweater.
Dieu bénisse Paris. Tu es aimé.