Tale of the ‘iron’ sweater

This is the story of the sweater I’m wearing now, as I sit at my computer in the cool room that’s part of my temporary home, telling it to you.

I was flooded out of my real home more than three weeks ago, rushed out immediately by the professional water removers I had called very quickly, and who responded just as quickly. They feared the possibility of contagion; as it turns out, there was none. But the damage was so extensive, the repairs — involving total removal and replacement of all the wood flooring and great portions of walls throughout the entire first floor — will take another three weeks or more to complete. 

I consider myself lucky to have my computer with me. Those thoughtful men did give me just a few minutes to throw some clothes and a selection of other essentials into a duffel bag before I got into my car and drove to this Marriott Residence Inn, where I’m now living well in what could easily be a nice vacation location. (If only this were a vacation, which it most definitely is not!) One of them followed in his car with my computer and set it up as soon as I had a suite assignment here. I am so grateful to him for giving me the immediate ability to continue working and communicating, almost as usual. 

However, the sweater is really the most important thing I brought with me. The rest of what I have, I grabbed in a hurry. But this is a staple in my life, so I made a point of grabbing it first. And just to make sure, I put it on before I left the house. It was the favorite sweater of my mother, who passed away in 1984, and I’ve been wearing it ever since: in her honor, in her memory, and because it’s just a warm, wonderful, comfortable, comforting something to have with me in my life — which has already exceeded the number of her years by seven. She didn’t even make it to 80…

I don’t know for sure for how many of those years she had this sweater herself; in my memory, it seems forever. But if you’re of “a certain age” yourself, you’ll know what I mean when I tell you that it’s made of some blend of fibers used long ago to create garments that look like wool but last much longer. I’ve always suspected the fabric is really iron; nothing and nobody can do it any harm. It goes into both washer and dryer with an endlessly varied assortment of comrades without reacting to their company at all; it mingles with everything and never pics up any tinge of color, always coming out in its own snowy whiteness. Even its pearl-like buttons are indestructible originals; they’ve never needed replacing because they’ve never come off. Whatever thread they were originally sewed on with (more iron, I suspect) still holds them firmly in place.

Nothing is made with this kind of durability in today’s disposably-oriented society. In addition to the sweater, I’ve kept a drawer full of feminine garments given to me at a bridal shower back in 1955: a full slip (what women wear those anymore?), two half-slips (ditto), and a nightgown with matching peignoir (does anyone today even know what a peignoir is?). These are, all of them, pure nylon, and look like it. Then, I wore them; I will never wear them again. But I honor them all as the also made-of-iron souvenirs they are.

You’ve probably already seen me wearing my made-of-iron white sweater. When our pandemic-enforced aloneness is just a memory, I’ll wear it in public again, hoping that then you’ll notice it and comment on it. If you also happen to be of that “certain age,” with memories of similar sweaters, etc., I invite your telling of your own stories about those everlasting iron garments of our shared past!

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