Posted by: Monideepa Tarafdar | December 7, 2009

An “out-of-fashion” sweater

Work had taken me to the city where my parents live and I was spending several months at home with them. I had forgotten to pack enough woolens for the winter so I asked my mother if there were sweaters at home that I could wear. “There are, but from years ago and are probably out of fashion. See if you can wear them”.

I opened the wardrobe where she’d kept them. There were sweaters of all colors and shapes. Looking for a suitable one, I started going through all of them. There was a blue one that I had knitted with mom’s help when I was in my third year in engineering college. A guy in my class had thought it pretty and had asked me out on a date. A gray one took me back to the winter when I decided to quit my engineer’s job to go back to school for a Ph.D. – I had knitted it during the time between my job ended and school began.  There was a red one that my sister wore when she was in school and that matched her white and red school uniform – I could see her running to catch the school bus, the red lapels flying in the wind.  A brown one my mother had knitted for my father when he retired – a retirement gift, she had said. They were just some old sweaters. But as I stood rummaging through them, one after another I saw snippets from our growing-up and grown-up years. Snapshots woven in wool that was red, blue, gray and all kinds of colors. Tapestries that showed pictures of us, of “together”. Little piles of memories. Furry and comforting and constant.

“You kept all of them?”, I asked. “Why?”

“You never know, do you, when you might need them?” Surely, she didn’t know that perhaps one of us would come looking for them and would feel reassured to see them there? Of course she did. She knew that as long as those long-ago sweaters were there to come back to, we would never be cold, no matter what we forgot to carry with us.  We would always be safe and warm when we came home no matter how far we traveled. I silently thanked my mother’s sweater-filled cupboard shelves.

I finally found one that had a mixed-up pattern of red, black, orange and brown. “There was wool left over from different sweaters I knitted that year, so I put them all together. Those sleeves were fashionable then but they are out of vogue now.” I put it on. It was loose, not a perfect fit at all, quite hopelessly un-stylish for the fashion of the day, but snug, and yes, a bright and happy jumble of colors. Just like the “us” my parents had created. Indeed, just like life. “This one’s fine”, I said.

My mother smiled – and I felt content. Yes, it was only a sweater, and an out-of-fashion one at that. But a sweater that cheerfully declared that almost every unexpected situation brings with it a reason to give thanks.

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