Torn open by a sweater

It didn’t hit me until I was almost through the day. I woke up this morning, and for a little while I actually forgot. It was a Sunday after all, lazy and slow. I opened the newspapers just before the coffee boiled, and then I remembered. Oh yes, I thought to myself. It’s today. I skimmed the photos, read a bit about victims’ losses, the cost of war and the passage of time and our current divides, and I felt sad. But it was a detached sadness. A now-I’m-supposed-to-remember-and-have-a-moment sadness. Sad, but passing.

The day hurtled on. Away from TV, away from the news and the Internet and any public places that might have been publicly remembering, I forgot. We went shopping for new school dresses for the girls, and then we went to the grocery store where we ate burritos and pizza and picked up some things for the week, turkey and crackers and three fresh nectarines. The kids acted up, racing down the wine aisle, and I was short with them. The weather was hot, and I caught myself complaining on the car ride home. When is this heat going to end? Why can’t fall just get here…

Then this afternoon I left the kids at home with their dad and went to a coffee shop so I could work on a story with a pending deadline. I went to the Starbucks near the university, the one surrounded by the nice outdoor mall, because it has big tables and a good work vibe. The mall was packed, with lots of people shopping and sipping and lounging in the sun. I worked for three hours, making good progress with my green tea lemonade and my headphones on, bent over my private table. I finished my story draft and then stopped in a store when I was done, buying three tank tops and a soft, linen cardigan.

I was almost at my car door when I spotted it: A tiny, pale pink baby sweater draped carefully over the top of my driver’s side mirror.

It was my daughter’s sweater, I realized. She had taken to wearing it lately, even though it had been knit for a small baby and originally retired years ago. Recently, both girls had discovered a trove of their baby tops that I had packed away in a closet and had appropriated the shirts for themselves once again. On a 4- and 6-year-old’s frame, the little tops looked bolero-like, hitting them at the elbow and falling, cropped, mid-torso. Budding fashion mavens, the girls love the look and delight each day in seeing whether any “baby top” might match their outfit du jour.

The pink sweater had been knit by my grandmother and had arrived in the mail 6 years ago, when our first daughter was just born. It was lace-like and delicate, with two ties the front from which hung two pink pompoms. In my memory-blurred mind, both daughters appear clear as day as pink-faced babies wearing, in turn, that little pink sweater, captured forever in dewey, drooling photographs.

The sweater was worn earlier today and had been cast aside when the sun burned too hot. It must have slipped out of the car and fallen to the ground when I pulled my laptop from the passenger seat.

And here it was. Placed where I would be sure to see it. That tiny, pink baby sweater, lying on the side mirror. Waiting. Someone had thought to put it here for me.

The tears pricked before I knew it and hovered there, inside the rims of my eyes. For a moment, I felt something I remembered feeling after that day, a sort of saving hope that followed the indescribable fear and darkness.

We can take such care of each other, I thought. We can be so good. 

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