Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sweatin' in an Oldie

Every time I watch an episode of Hoarders, at some point I think, "how can he/she possibly be attached to that (piece of fabric/empty box/magazine from 1991)?" I wonder why these people can't see that the object(s) in front of them are clearly garbage that should be tossed out. But the truth is, we all own something whose value is understood only by ourselves.

One thing I can't throw out is a college sweatshirt I bought in 1986. At the time I was 14 years old and visiting my brother at his school during Parents Weekend. In anticipation of this trip I saved my allowance for weeks, knowing exactly what I wanted to buy at the student union store. Once purchased, I couldn't wait to put it on; this sweatshirt was the whitest, coziest, fluffiest sweatshirt I've ever felt. It was like wearing a cloud.

Twenty-five years later it's threadbare, tinted a yellowish-gray color, and smells musty from hiding in a storage bin for 8 months out of the year. The neck, wrists, and waistband are completely stretched out. I look like a bag lady wearing it. Still, I hold onto it. I've worn that Duke sweatshirt EVERYWHERE: on vacations (all of them), to football games, and on dates. While jogging, while sick, and while studying. Through high school, through college, through graduate school. It has traveled from Maine to Florida to California to Washington. Every boyfriend I've had has held my hand in this sweatshirt.

My life happened in this sweatshirt.

So when I consider putting it to a final rest, a flood of memories always surfaces. I've come to realize over the years that when my life is going well I tend to purge excess items, and when it's less than ideal, I hold on to more.

I have other sweatshirts, mind you; sweatshirts from colleges I actually attended. And I have newer sweatshirts whose whites are whiter and whose brights are brighter. But the Duke sweatshirt...it's part security blanket, part historical artifact, like the teddy bear I received when I was three who still sits on a chair in my bedroom. I know it's way past its prime but I just can't let it go. It's my "Wooby." Every time I've tried to throw it out, sentimentality places it back in the bin. Duke's not going anywhere.

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