Soliloquy To My 27 Year-Old Party Sweater

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Dear 1986 Party Sweater,

I was just fifteen years old when I first laid eyes on you. Hanging there on the rack at Finkelstein’s, your thick, creme colored cable knit was woven with promises of bonfire parties, strawberry Bartels & James wine coolers, and Second Base.

On that Saturday afternoon in late September, my mother carried you to the counter for purchase. I stood close by, excitedly chewing my Bit O’Honey whilst continuing to break down the backs of my new Sebagos. Once we arrived home, I put you on as fast as I could, and stood in front of the full length mirror. Little did I know then, that our love affair was to outlast my dearest backwards Forenza sweater by decades.

That night, we made our debut. I paired you with my faded, hole-in-the-knee Levi’s which were skillfully folded over and rolled at the ankle. I got my bangs pretty high that night, and decided on the red Mia shoes. A chill was in the air as my mom dropped me off in front of the Towson Library to meet my friends. Our vagrant posse ventured over to TBK, or Towson Burger King for those of you not familiar with the teeny tiny demographic of my teenaged years. You, my Party Sweater, were making all of my fifteen year old dreams come true. No fake. While keeping me warm, you made me cooler on that magical night filled with Whopper Jr’s, Marlboro Lights, Duran Duran, endless rounds of What’s grosser than gross, and Miller High Life’s.

You were with me through my Sophomore, Junior and Senior years of High School, then took up residence with me through four years of college in Florida. You didn’t get much play down there, but you were always my go to on a chilly night. You were my security blanket as we backpacked for months together through Europe, each and every stain, a story. Jagermeister doesn’t come out, but neither does the memory of taking the overnight ferry from Italy to Greece with a cheap ass deck-class ticket playing cards with other freezing cold, miserably cheerful travelers for hours.

I remember a certain sadness when I was finally able to wash you after that trip. The dinginess of countries and smells of adventure washed away. Before you could unravel, I carefully stitched the small hole from the cherry of a cigarette that fell on your sleeve from that drunk guy at the pub in London. After all, we had much more ground to cover.

You came with me to New York, and comforted me when my immature fantasy of becoming a rich and successful artist overnight were dashed. Many Sunday mornings were spent in perfect harmony with just you, drinking coffee in that tiny railroaded apartment over the pizza joint in Brooklyn.

I lived in you for a while after the woman who gave you to me died of cancer. You were my cocoon in the darkness until I was able to grow wings and fly in the light again. In brighter times, you were my Sunday Funday winter companion, a regular in the bars of Federal Hill, and always a staple for St. Patrick’s Day. I did some of my best drinking with you, you’ve seen me at my best, and also at my worst. You had my back through dozens of boyfriends, and dozens of break-ups. You moved with me no less than ten times before I was married.

Well-worn with the years, but still, you held me like family and stretched across my growing belly, twice, to accommodate my two sons. The left shoulder only slightly discolored from spit-up and drool, I can still smell the softness of baby hair in your fibers.

You never left my side when I was swallowed up by depression and crippling anxiety that stretched on for years. You warmed my soul as I got sober, and began to heal through hot mugs of herbal tea, instead of icy tumblers of vodka. Your familiarity gave me solace through the pain of divorce. Wrapped around me on that rainy day in October, you held me together as I packed boxes and prepared for a new life.

After twenty-seven years, you still hang in the closet of my happy home, Party Sweater. You wait patiently, listening to the happy screams and racing footsteps of children, providing shelter for little blonde boys who hide behind you in my closet. I can no longer wash you, and only wear you on rare and perfectly reminiscent occasions. Your fibers are worn with years of love and loss, excitement and sadness, adventure and promise, discovery and knowledge. The intimate details of a lifetime.

Thank you Party Sweater, for being the most loyal companion I’ve ever had.

************

Email a pic of YOUR party sweater to beoutinaminute@comcast.net and I’ll post it! Don’t forget to add your name and a caption or description.

Ignacio Calhoun: Benetton circa 1986.

Ignacio Calhoun: Benetton circa 1986.

Rich Herling:  Christmas Party Sweater: a) your dog has one too, and b) the reindeer are fucking

Rich Herling: Christmas Party Sweater: a) your dog has one too, and b) the reindeer are fucking

25 replies

  1. I love it. What a great homage to a beloved sweater. I bet the memories that come flooding back to you when you wear it are vivid and unpredictable depending on your mood and where you are that particular wearing. It’d be something, if that sweater could speak, I’m sure.

  2. I have a sweater like that too! I bought it in 1986 and everything. I bought the sweater at the benetton in McKinley Mall, then walked across the mall to Camelot music and bought Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet’ on cassette. I just wore the sweater on Tuesday in the midst of the polar vortex. And I still listen to Bon Jovi regularly. Obvi.

    You have written about this so beautifully. And that’s hard to do. It’s all the details – from the Bit O Honey to the Jagermeister stain – that make this so poignant. And you leave it to us to imagine the people wending their way in and out of the sweater’s path. very nice.

    I wish commenters could post pictures so I could show you my sweater.

  3. Scruffy,
    I’ve dug around in a few of my bags and I’m not sure if the Ex jettisoned my Wooly. I hope he’s around here somewhere, Miami offers very few days where I could use him, maybe he wandered off after a long stretch of neglect or got chucked along with dozens of other items that “mysteriously” never came back from the wash. Aaaargh.
    Scruffy

  4. Sometimes its the little things in life that actually mean the most simply because of where they’ve been.

    And there truly is something magical about a sweater that can last this long and go through so much.

  5. Thank you for the beautiful, heartfelt tribute to an item that has been with you through good time and bad, Tracy.
    That having been said, that’s one lucky sweater…

  6. I was going to ask you if you’d like to take part in my 5×5 series, Tracy, but I have a feeling you re not going to respond to any more of my comments – for reasons that have nothing to do with either one of us. That’s cool; you’ll always be one of my faves.
    Take care.

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