I have this sweater that hangs in the back of my closet. To be honest it’s not very flattering these days. But before it was worn and stretched and washed and dried incorrectly only to be washed and stretched again, it was a delightful sweater.
I bought the sweater back during my junior year of college. I had been invited to spend a weekend with a friend in Boston. Dad and I went shopping a few weeks before my trip. I saw the sweater and fell instantly in love. Never having been one for style, I tended to gravitate toward comfort. And this sweater just breathed comfort. But unlike most of my fashion choices, this sweater was beautiful. It was charcoal gray with flecks of color splashed about. It zipped up and had a hood. I grabbed it from the rack and Dad agreed that it had a Boston look to it. Very New Englandy.
The sweater traveled to Boston with me that fall. And then to New York in the winter. Philly the following winter. Alaska in the spring. Raleigh the following Christmas. The more I wore it, the more it stretched. The more it stretched, ironically, the more I loved it. It had character and despite its misshapen identity, it still breathed comfort. It lost a little of its beauty on the outside, but to me it remained beautiful. A treasure that withstood the passing of time.
I pulled it out this morning, this first morning that has had a taste of fall. The temperature is comfortable but the breeze is giving me shivers. I just needed a little added layer to take the chill off. Wrapping the worn and loved sweater around me and zipping it up, I relished its comfort, its history, its trek through life with me.
This sweater and me? We actually share more than just travel and cold days. You see, my body isn’t so perfect anymore either. Back before it was worn and stretched and tired, it was a delightful body. Time and babies have taken their toll. Bits of it have stretched beyond repair and bits of it sag thanks to the law of gravity. But this body? The one Daxson reaches for in the middle of the night? The one my babies snuggle up to when they’re scared? I’d like to think it’s still comfortable. It’s beautiful in a way it hasn’t always been. It has nurtured life within its womb and stretched and given way to miracles. Tiny little miracles. Four of them here on Earth. Two more securely tucked away in Heaven. It has nursed my babies into healthy toddlers. It has lifted those children and rocked them and held them close on the nights when their dreams weren’t so sweet. It has spoken of love and pleasure to a devoted husband. It has been pushed to its limits with my obsession of diets and working out. It carries on despite its lack of good sleep, a rest from stress and access to a perfect diet. It is faithful despite my nonacceptance, my constant criticism.
This morning, I snuggle a little deeper into my sweater and I look down at the stomach that is no longer flat. Instead of criticizing, I praise the stretch marks, the sagging skin, the abs that will never boast of themselves in a bikini and I accept it all for what it is. A vessel for love. And my sweater? I praise it, too. For teaching me the beauty of a body well used.