As I reached happily for my well worn hooded sweatshirt again this morning, I wondered suddenly why I feel such affection for it, and for all those I’ve ever had, why I am always on the lookout for new ones to replace those that wear out, and why I am so excited when I find one. I mean, this is a sweatshirt for heaven’s sake…

Specifically, a hooded sweatshirt, thick and soft, with front kangaroo pocket and hood ties hanging down from the neck.

A memory pops into mind—when I was about 8 years old, my mom bought me and my brothers light gray hooded sweatshirts and duffle bags on the eve of our first cross-country camping trip, when we went to the Black Hills and Yellowstone. On that trip I fell in love with travel and with my sweatshirt.

I realize now that over time that sweatshirt became infused with the excitement and adventure of camping and exploring new landscapes during many family trips to state and national parks. With campfires and playing outside on cool nights. With raking and jumping in leaf piles in the fall. With snuggling next to my little brother in front of the TV on winter evenings. Roomy, soft, warm and comforting, I wore that sweatshirt or one just like it for years, while cozily settling in to read or watch TV in the winter, and while playing, hiking, and exploring outside the rest of the year.

Ever since then I have owned at least one all my life, which I wear almost daily except when it’s too hot.  Often silver gray, the heavier the better, no images or words, just like that first one. Though my newest one is a smoky gray, a “dress” one that has an image of Lake Superior on the front, no words. The saggy one I’m wearing right now I’ve worn for years. It’s cobalt blue and spotted with paint—my winter paint shirt. I love bringing the hooded sweatshirt’s energy to my painting.

I’m a little sheepish to discover all the energy and meaning that I associate with my hooded sweatshirts:

  • They make me feel warm and safe. It’s like carrying my own soft shell; I can be open and available (and softly huggable) or if necessary, I can retreat and soothe myself by nestling into it, putting my hands in the pocket, warming them and my belly.
  • They’re soft, comfortable, practical, and casual, leaving me free to roam and play without worry about hurting my clothes–and its very lack of style frees me from trying to be fashionable.
  • They’re roomy and long, making me feel I can breathe deeply, move easily, and open my arms wide to a spacious world.
  • They’re identified in my heart with adventure, with glorious times in nature, with love and sweet family times, with snuggling, with my curious child self.

In other words, my hooded sweatshirt helps me be myself.

Wow. That seems weird, too much to imbue onto a piece of clothing. Especially one from childhood, for goodness sake. Like a talisman.

I have a vague sense that hooded sweatshirts for daily wear are not appropriate at my age somehow, even though I can’t quite let them go (at least now I know why). But finding some without pictures or words is hard these days. When I do find them, they are often much thinner than those in years past—not as warm, cozy, roomy, protective or huggable. (More fashionable probably.)

If I can’t replace my aging sweatshirts, how will I summon that comfort and freedom? Or, now that I am aware of what they represent, can I let go of my talisman and express all that energy anyway?

Do you have a ridiculously strong attachment to an item or items of clothing?  (I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one.) What does the item mean to you, or say about you?