I am having a hard time lately with telling you all yet another thing you need. It has been a long few months for me — I am calling it “my summer of infection and reflection.” I got covid, then a bad bronchial infection that would not go away, and so I was moving very slowly through the month of July trying to nurse myself back to health. At the peak of it, I had a good bit of fever for a few days — and let me tell you I was so emotional! I will risk sounding sexist to remind you that we are used to that around here… at one point we had all five daughters under one roof and 5 girls x average 5 days… you see what I mean. I always kind of adored it. Drama queen and her court. When any one of them would collapse into tears, it often made me smile to recognize how deeply they felt it. Even so, this month was more. I cried a lot. I cried at sad things and I cried at happy things. I cried myself all the way through the audiobook of All the Light We Cannot See which gave me fresh new mourning for WW2. I was ashamed. Where had I been all these years?? I listened to Tom Hanks’ excellent reading of The Dutch House (did you know he narrated audiobooks?), weeping openly on the street as I walked the dogs. I then decided to re-read (or rather re-listen to) Commonwealth, and still there were more tears. How did I not remember how much the 6 children reminded me in various ways of my own siblings growing up in the same period. I could not have been more self-absorbed even as I was reading about fictionalized others!
I continued on the Ann Patchett kick and blazed through my second reading of her latest book of essays, These Precious Days. She has not just one but two pieces in this book that deal directly with consumerism and shedding one’s possessions. In HOW TO PRACTICE she carefully works her way through her belongings in an effort to clear out. She poignantly walks through the gigantic job of sorting through her childhood friend’s fathers’ home when he passes away – and declares that she will not ask those left behind to deal with her own stuff. The task was to pretend that she and her husband are moving, even though they are not. (She describes this as being easier to ponder than pretending to die, and then not.)
If you can’t tell, I am crazy about this woman. In my fantasy life, I have dreamt of meeting her, like a million other women on the planet, feeling certain that we would be great friends. I think that is the mark of a great writer — we all feel like we SO get her. But when it comes to this topic… no way. She would hate me. I am the woman who tells others that they NEED things, when we all have too many things already. Even cured of my fever, I am still feeling badly. More tears, more self-absorption.
But still... somehow. I feel like Ann Patchett just might need… this cardigan.
It would help. I feel sure. Do I sound defensive? She could get rid of so many of those other cardigans that are just sitting in the bottom of her drawer all smushed and lonely (she laughs at herself assigning human feelings to inanimate objects). She could give those “bad” cardigans away and maybe even write about how happy they would be in their new life in a new home with someone else’s arms “filling their sleeves,” finally having a sense of purpose!
I would tell her – and you – that this one, this cardigan, is better. Or maybe it is not better; maybe it is just as good as the others. But I really, really, find it useful. I have often said here that the simplest things can be the hardest to find. A classic menswear style shirt that doesn’t make you feel like a man and has room for your breasts. A pullover sweater that looks easy and sexy without looking sloppy. Flat shoes that look elegant, not frumpy. The most basic things that strike just the right balance. This is nothing more than a ribbed cardigan with a V-neck. Mostly cotton with a little silk. A true day to night piece. So simple, and to me, so perfect. It looks great on its own, with nothing but skin and a pretty bra underneath. Unbuttoned and worn over a trim t-shirt or tank, it becomes a small, feminine jacket. We have run this style before, and I have worn it with black trousers and sparkly earrings to a dinner party. Understated and elegant. We just photographed it with a full taffeta ball skirt for our holiday catalog. Beautiful! I love it with black jeans and cowboy boots: a very rock and roll version of a look I been copying from the pages of the weekly version of French Elle for almost 40 years now. French by way of the American West. Or is it the other way around? This cardigan knows no age. Excellent for me in my 60s (just) – but I have been hiding it at the bottom of my drawer so my college girl doesn’t take it to school with her. (So many years of wincing at her in trendy, oversized things and now it appears that trim is in. Again.) I can dream of wearing it ten years from now, too — there are small front pockets where I can keep little candies for my grandchildren to find when they sit on my lap. More tears. For the grandchildren I do not even have!
In my defense, it is not that you need SO SO many things. (If you scroll down to the million posts of zillion words written, you can roll your eyes.) But the right things — things meant to save and share and pass along to another happy owner — are for me, a help and a joy. I love this cardigan. Sorry Ann. It is one you do kind of need. I promise.