The Green Sweater

An old green cardigan. It's mine. Now. Not for long, though.

So there’s this picture of me. Standing next to the Spouse. It was Easter dinner. I’m wearing these old glasses that are a little too round for my face. And, even though it’s a family holiday dinner we’re hosting, we’re pretty casual.

Many Easter dinners started on the back porch. Those early sunny spring Sundays have served up the first al fresco parties of the year. There was that IKEA set we had with the bargain wood table, two chairs and the bench. Then we got the metal chairs with comfy cushions to surround the mosaic tile table with the red and white awning-ed umbrella.

The back porch served up our renewed love of pink wine.  Our guests recoiled at the petal hue of that early rosé. The color that–back then–telegraphed sticky sweet wine. But not this one. It was French. It was dry. And it had stone fruit, actually peach, esters that surprised.

I poured this beautiful wine and challenged our guests. There were olives and cheeses and I don’t know what else–maybe prosciutto wrapped honeydew?–providing culinary cover. So we got drunk before the crown roast of pork or salmon roudelade.

This Easter, the one that I started talking about, the one in the picture, had me with my period glasses perched on my nose and standing next to the Spouse. My hair was unattractively pulled back in a way that kept it out of the meal but that did me no beauty favors. Like I was the before picture from a makeover.

The point of this photo, when it was taken, was to display the wine. There’s me and the Spouse, like I said, and we’re holding an amazing bottle of French champagne between us. The wine with the super tiny, micro-fine bubbles. And the taste of toasted biscuits. And the color of diluted honey through a slightly bronzed lens. You might recognize this description as Cristal. And you’d be right.

The Spouse was gifted this fine vintage bottle from an academy award winning director after a rare personal print that he lent was projected with great care. That’s what Hollywood folks do, I guess. Have a very expensive champagne shipped to a dirty projection booth.

Legend has it that The Spouse was ready to pop the cork to share the nectar with his colleagues after the show when one of his staff stopped him. “No!” said he, “This is the good stuff. The stuff that the rappers drink. Share this with your spouse.” For this, I am forever grateful.

So the rescued bottle was hidden in the basement for a bit, until that Easter when we had family over and popped the Cristal. We shared with the boys and compared it to another bottle of champagne we poured. There was a notable difference–even for the barely teens. On this day I was wearing my green sweater. I know because of the photo.

I ordered the sweater online. I chose two shaker stitch sweaters, one a medium olive green and the other an ocean blue. I also ordered the matching shells. The blue set was donated first. The green shell a bit later. But the green cardigan? That became my go-to wrap.

From fall through the end of spring, I’d wear that heavy-stitched cotton warmer. I wrapped a decade of Christmas presents wearing it. I made about twenty-thousand-million pots of coffee with it over my shoulders. I checked homework and watched hours and hours and hours of Star Wars on repeat with the boys wearing this cape.

When I’d get home, I’d take of my work clothes and don the green sweater. It was my house sweater.  Like a Mr. Rogers-came-in-the-house sweater.

Over the years I baked three or four cookie trays, oversaw 8-12 science fairs, popped four-thousand bowls of corn, read two hundred books, bought $58,726 in online merchandise on Amazon, listened to 60 million songs and paid a gazillion bills while wearing it.

I didn’t really wear it much at all last winter. And also not so much the winter before. When I put it on this year it was misshapen. It was stretched out in weird ways, and shrunk in the most unattractive ways. The buttons didn’t align quite right, and the cuffs were a little frayed.

I was parsing through my wardrobe, trying to do some purging before we have to move out. No reason to pack away or to move junk. You know? And my hands lifted the sweater to eye level. I saw what must be the grown-up version of a teen looking at a beloved stuffed animal. It meant so much. And it was time to let it go.

It still brought me joy, but in the form of memories, not in function. I gave it a hug, like you’d give your scruff teddy bear, and placed it in the donation pile. Thank you, green sweater, for the years of joy. I will remember you always, like a fine, ephemeral champagne.

Enchanté

Medalist in the 100m backstroke, Fu Yuanhui (China) Kylie Masse (CAN), gold medalist Katinka Hosszú (Hungary) and (USA) Kathleen Baker.

You win a gold medal at the Olympics, you feel joy. You stand at the podium with any medal around your neck, there is joy. For many athletes, finishing their event brings joy. They are achieving long-standing goals. They are competing on an elite stage.

There is the inevitable local news coverage after an event. Athletes–especially athletes from big national news markets–are regularly prepped with words of wisdom and platitudes. To say the right things, thank the right people, to be poised and humble, and to certainly hold your hand in the correct position when your country’s national anthem rings out.

The strongest expressions of joy you see is a fist pump or an air box. You see beaming ear to ear grins. You see teammates gripping each other in bear hugs. You see overwhelming tears of gratitude, relief and, perhaps, joy. Once you saw someone take off her jersey and fall to her knees. That was an unusual, unscripted and primal display of joy. It was the exception that proved the rule. Pump, grin, hug or cry. Those are the acceptable norms.

And then you see the pure and unabashed joy of Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui. She is most definitely having a good time. It’s as if she was never given the advice to “act like you’ve been there before.” She’s not acting, she is being.

She was blatantly amazed and pleased by her bronze medal swim. She learned of her time from the interviewer and brought her hand to her wide with surprise mouth. She as much as said, “I swam that fast?!”

She hops up and down like a kid on Christmas morning, all the time. It’s like she’s acting out. Acting out her very huge feelings of glee and the soaring of her heart. At least for this Olympics, she’s not willing to tamp down any of her feelings of wonder and delight.

I could watch her most natural joie de vivre during every Olympic break. She loves being there, and she loves sharing that in the most obvious ways. You don’t need to interpret her. Why hold back, she asks us all? Don’t act like you’ve been there, act like you’ll never be back.

Damn, I love this woman.

Teddy Bears & Unicorns & Bellybuttons

My ancient Wayfarers. Same 'script for decades.

Sometimes I find myself overcome by a surprise rush of happiness. It’s like warm puppy kisses and a wave of lightheadedness like from champagne with tiny bubbles.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the proximate cause. Upon my analysis I think there may be something wrong with me. So be it. I thought I’d share just a few of the things that make me inexplicably happy.

  • Empty tupperware containers in the sink evidencing the enjoyment of leftovers when the Big Guy got home late last night.
  • Pulling my red raincoat out of the closet.
  • Every single time my friend posts anything about Mount Vernon on Facebook. He does it a lot, too.
  • Trout on a menu. I might not eat it every time but am oddly ecstatic that it’s there.
  • Wool socks that belonged to someone with big feet that shrunk to my size and because of the concentration of yarn have an extra deep layer of lamby, cushiony comfort.
  • The Beast bounding to the door then stopping  just before he reaches me to turn around to find a toy to present as tribute.
  • Grape potatoes.
  • Hearing a Muzaked version of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. It should, but does not, offend me.
  • The strike of a match and smell of sulfur for the dinner candles.
  • Texts from Baby Bear rueing the current state of political affairs.
  • The fresh fish displayed on what looks like black marble in the case at The District Fishwife.
  • Pulling the threads to open up the pocket on a new jacket. The moment when you pull that long string and the pocket is fully freed? That.
  • Seeing the neighbor kid driving their folks’ car for the first time. Scary, too.
  • Honey in a comb, especially if it sits next to the tasty mustard on my artisan charcuterie plate.
  • The laser mouse for our TV. Every time I use it, I’m excited.
  • A fourth grader opening a book they’re carrying then shoving their face between the pages as soon as they find a place to sit.
  • Someone truly enjoying the music that I’m hearing from their headphones. Bonus if they’re singing–with or without sound. Quality of singing not a factor in my joy.
  • Dogs sniffing and spinning and positioning their rumps to take a crap.
  • The way the hinge rocks up and down on my ancient Wayfarers.
  • The spouse, haloed by the lamp, sitting on the couch doing a crossword puzzle.
  • People blindly walking down the street with their conference name tag. I well up in affection. Sometimes I suggest that they take it off. For safety’s sake.
  • Peeling a slightly dried out clementine. There is a pleasure in the way that it almosts pops like a bubble as you pull away the peel.
  • Someone flirting with me. I don’t care that his cologne is eau du piss and his bling is the jingle of coins in the cup he picked out of the trash. I’m still flattered.
  • Hitting publish on a post.

Well, that last one isn’t so inexplicable, but I don’t really have much explanation for the rest.

I hope that you, too, My Loyal Reader, have simple things that make you inexplicably happy. Do share.