The Weird and Wonderful Sentimentality of Old Clothing

A baby's sleeper, a dad's jacket, a mom's sweater...some things we can bear to throw away

The Weird and Wonderful Sentimentality of Old Clothing

clothing nostalgia

Maybe everyone has an item of clothing tattered with holes sitting in their closet.

For far too many years after my mom died, I held onto her knitted wool cardigan.

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She’d already had it many years before she passed away in 1997. It was light grey, gorgeous and snuggly warm, with wooden toggle buttons and a hood. The sweater reminded me of my mom in autumn, her favorite season, when a fresh earthy scent fills the air, and orange, yellow and red leaves fall to our feet.

As a child, I remember her wearing it.

When she was suddenly gone, the sweater — full of memories, hugs and the immense feelings of childhood — made me feel as though I still had a piece of her with me. In my grasp I had something that had once rested against her lovely, lightly freckled skin.

Then, gradually, the sweater wore down.

Tiny holes formed along the cuffs and gradually grew into bigger, unsightly holes. The toggles hung on desperately to loosening threads. Then, the stitching along the hood wore down and eventually it ripped. The hood dangled by a mere thread or two.

The sweater was unfixable.

I am somewhat of a minimalist, but I am also a sentimentalist. These two sides are often at odds, as you can imagine. Still, my mom’s sweater persevered. From move to move, new closet to new closet, I brought it along. Many times I placed it in the junk pile only to rescue it, apologizing for having considered tossing it. Then, one day, I said goodbye to it for real.

It was time. Sometimes you just know it.

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The poor thing had so little fabric left, it could have been mistaken for a scarf. As I wrote that last sentence, I wonder why the heck didn’t I turn it into a scarf or a sock pocket for my son. Hindsight —  it’s a cruel thing.

Now, here I am again, at the end of the clothing rope. This time it involves a pair of comfy dark green socks, knitted by my aunt in Tennessee, my mom’s sister. They are by far my favorite socks. Because of this, they’ve been washed and worn a great many times throughout the years. And now, they are riddled with holes. When I wear them, my left foot gets cold because of the gaping hole on the bottom.

The other day I put them in the trash.

Then I fished them out (there was nothing gross in the garbage, for the record). I washed them and stashed them away in my sock drawer.

It is a process, I suppose.

Saying goodbye to inanimate objects that carry with them comfort and emotion is very much a human characteristic, yet the power of these things is undeniable.

Today, I still miss my mom’s cozy sweater, but it’s with the understanding that what I truly long for is the woman who wore it. I take comfort in knowing that as long as my memory is in tact, my mom is still with me in some way.

Soon, I will probably bid farewell to my raggedy socks. By then, my only hope is that my aunt will read this post and suddenly experience a surge of sock-making inspiration and pick up those magical knitting needles once again (hint, hint).

What about you? Have you held onto an old, beloved piece of clothing that is falling apart at the seams?

Do share: what’s the item, and why do you keep it?

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