This horse sweatshirt is on its way to guarding my arms through a second round of summer chills. I bought it at the Hollywood Ross for less than half of what Hurley intended me to pay in the early part of summer, 2009. It has built-in thumb-holes, custom friendship-bracelet-like hoodie pulls, and no one can tell me for certain if it is red or orange, because it is both. I wore it on Phish Tour last year. I wore it to and from Manzanillo. I wore it to and from Burning Man. I wore it on many sad nights, and during many beautiful days. I wore it on beautiful nights and sad days. I wore it in New York and North Carolina and Washington State and back home again.
When I was a small girl, I had a favorite green sweatshirt. Deep in my mother's archive of things-we-pull-out-once-every-five-years, there is a cassette tape, upon which I am singing a song I wrote that has a verse about the sweatshirt. I think it goes thusly:
Sweatshirt, sweatshirt, you come here!
You've got a mommy and you've got a daddy
At least, one of the verses goes like that. There is a microphone verse, too, in which the microphone's mother is crying for the microphone to come home. The point of the song, it seems, is that errant objects just need to be reminded they are loved at home, and they will come back from whatever their suspicious wanderings. This level of complexity seems a little farfetched?
Imagine a small child who loses things constantly. Imagine a small child who loses things that are expensive as easily as she loses things that are cheap. Imagine a small child living in a communal household with her mother, for half the week, and a shared apartment, with her father, for the other half, and imagine this child knows, without being told in any rude or pressured way, that there simply isn't a lot of money around. Things that are lost are not always replaced. Imagine that this child wants desperately to make life easier for her overworked and loving parents, and imagine that every time she loses something she feels a horrible sense of guilt and sadness and also, a certain befuddlement, since she can never remember leaving anything anywhere. Imagine the small step it would take for this small child to conclude that it is the things themselves who behave poorly, since she never intends to.
Sweatshirt, sweatshirt, you come here. I probably said it many times, as I looked around my desk at school, as I ran back to the playground after the bell rang, as I checked in the car on my way to mom's, as I checked in the car on my way to dad's.
I developed little systems, suggested by various people. Put your things in the same place when you come in every day. Count how many things you have on one hand when you get somewhere, and then count again when you leave. Eventually I started losing things less often.
Now, something bizarre has happened. I will have the sudden pang of "realization" that I have forgotten something (keys! phone! wallet! sweatshirt!) and then lo and behold, one of my reaction-systems, which are all now totally unconscious, has actually kept the "forgotten" thing in its right place. The panic ends, and I marvel simultaneously at: (1) how incredibly powerful my habit-training to not lose things has become and (2) how incredibly powerful the habit of feeling like I'm forgetting something still is, despite (1).
Maybe my attachment to this horse sweatshirt is just a replay of my attachment to the green sweatshirt of my childhood, and maybe my attachment to that green sweatshirt was the result of that effort I made, knowing I was Someone Who Lost Things, to have something I loved that I did NOT lose, to prove to myself and to Mom and Dad and especially Erica that I could be responsible, too, since responsibility was very much a part of giving and receiving love, and maybe through some psychological process I am loathe to find a name for the sweatshirt itself became the symbol of freedom from my old identity as a Loser and a badge of honor in my hoped-for new identity as a Keeper. A Keeper does not lose things, and therefore a Keeper deserves to be kept.
The orange sweatshirt certainly is symbolic: I got it not long before Louis and I broke up, and I was wearing it the night we did, and that means this sweatshirt is a talisman of sorts. It soaked up my grief, it frayed and grayed a bit along with me as I traveled and healed. I have affection for it, this piece of my uniform during a long year of change. I would be sad if I left it somewhere--much sadder than if I left any one of about four other sweatshirts I own. It could be scrapbooked or framed. Instead I will wear it until it falls apart, or I inexplicably fall off the Keeper wagon, or I loan it to someone who never felt compelled to get on that particular wagon and they leave it somewhere.
In the last two cases, I will sing the Sweatshirt song, at least once, just in case the sweatshirt feels like coming home.