Anyone who has seen me during winter for the last three decades has likely seen me wearing my green sweater. Shortly after moving out of the dorms at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and into my first apartment, I had a conversation with my grandmother about being cold. I was on a budget and heat wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Gram wondered if I couldn’t afford to turn the heat up, why didn’t I wear a sweater. I didn’t have one. I didn’t have the money to buy one.
By the time I left her house in Middletown, New York, I had a pocket full of cash to buy a sweater of my choosing. It took months to find a sweater I liked.
I’m particular about the clothing I wear. I know today it’s because of some PTSD triggers. Back then, I would just say, “Nah, I don’t like that shit,” and move on.
One day, I was with a friend at the Gateway Mall in Lincoln, Nebraska. My friend was looking for fancy girl clothes. I was bored out of my mind. We strolled into Younkers and I sighed. This is not a store for me, I thought. My friend squealed in that girl voice that makes you instantly regret you even know a person. She started draping items of clothing over her arm to try on in the fitting room.
While I waited for her to try on clothes, I leaned on a clothing rack and stared around the store. That’s when I saw it. Hanging on a high rack on the wall, a perfect, green sweater was on display.
I wanted to try it on. That would require asking a salesperson for assistance. I’m not good at those kinds of things. I almost left the green sweater hanging, but my friend had exited the fitting room to ask my opinion on what she had tried on. (Don’t ever ask me my opinion. You’re not naked, so, yes, that shirt-pants-shorts-sweater-whatever looks fine on you.)
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” she said.
“The green sweater,” I said.
“You wanna try it on?”
“Nah, it’s too high and I can’t reach it.”
My friend immediately found a salesperson and asked her to pull every green sweater down so I can try them all on. After being condescending and correcting us – the sweater was actually a cardigan – the woman pulled the sweaters down for me. I gave her a “if I could punch you in your face for being a bitch I would” look the entire time I tried the sweaters on. I never broke eye contact.
The medium fit perfectly. I used my grandmother’s money to purchase it and swore to never return to Younkers. I never did. I’m convinced that day is what caused Younkers to close thirty years later.
I don’t usually wear light colors, but there were touches of hunter green mixed with the lighter green. It was smooth, yet soft. It was the most comfortable sweater I had ever worn. My grandmother’s sweaters were all rough, like wool. It was the only kind of sweater I had seen before. This…this perfect, green sweater was something different.
I lost the first button on my green sweater a few months later when I drove home to New York. I had closed part of my sweater in the car door of my white Toyota Corolla SR5. I noticed this fact somewhere in Ohio. Naturally, I thought it was a good idea to pull the sweater back in without opening the door. I was driving 85 mph and I certainly wasn’t going to stop. The sweater came in. The button flew in the air, landing somewhere in the grassy median. I wasn’t going to go look for it.
Over time, the sweater saw the use and abuse of being part of my winter wardrobe. I had three, small, blue ink spots on the back of my sweater. I never did figure out where they came from. I don’t like or use blue ink. It didn’t exist in my world, except on my sweater.
Little by little, the sleeves started to become see-through, tiny tears appeared, and fraying at the cuffs took their toll on my favorite sweater. Still, I didn’t want to give up my perfect, green sweater.
In 2018, my coworkers tried to convince me to throw it out. They threatened to take it when I wasn’t wearing it. I believed them. I was terrified of losing my sweater. No matter how warm the office got, I refused to take it off. I secretly wanted to punch them. They didn’t understand. Gram gave me the money to buy it. Green was Gram’s favorite color. My sweater was comfortable.
These coworkers also offered to find me a new sweater. I told them it was an impossible task. They put forth some effort. The company that made my sweater was out of business. They couldn’t find the right shade of green. Nothing came close to the look and feel of my green sweater. They eventually gave up.
In 2019, I had to admit the hole in the shoulder Paul had mended was holding up fine, but other small holes caused by time and wear made it clear my beloved, well-worn sweater was nearing the end of its life.
In March, I took my sweater off for the last time. I put it in with the week’s wash, then folded it up, and placed it in my closet. I was cold the rest of the winter, but I didn’t want to damage that perfect, green sweater.
In early October, I went to Target to search for a winter jacket. I didn’t have one. For the past four years, my winter jacket was a gray, hooded coat emblazoned with “Star-Herald, Pride in the Panhandle” on the left front breast. I was wearing the jacket when I covered a story about yaks with Ag Editor Spike Jordan. It’s the main photo here on my site.
A former coworker had given the jacket to me. She hated it and never wore it. It was dark gray. Dark colors are always the perfect choice for me. When I left the newspaper, I turned the jacket in. At the time, I needed to leave everything about the newspaper behind.
October was starting to turn chilly and I needed a proper winter jacket. As I strolled through the men’s section (I don’t like or fit in girly clothes) looking around at all the jackets, I saw it. If it fit, it would be my new green jacket.
The rack had one in each size – small, medium, large, extra large. The large fit perfectly. I smiled, knowing my search for a new green jacket was over. It was warm, soft, and had a perfect blend of colors.
I left the store hanger on the rack, draped my new green sweater over my right arm and continued my search for a jacket. I found it, too. The jacket is black, of course, like most of my wardrobe.
I liked my new green sweater so much I went online to Target’s website in the hopes of finding it for sale there, too. It was. I purchased two more. I hope my three new green sweaters last the rest of my life and I never have to perform this search again.
My new green sweater is also perfect, but in a different way. It’s warm, comforting, smooth, soft, and I look pretty damn good in it. It’s not green, but that’s okay. It’s perfect. That’s all it needs to be.