Mum's Old Jumper
So I found this old jumper in the back of my closet the other day. It’s a mess of a thing, and it’s also beautiful. A whole patchwork of different knits and different colours, and the shape is bulgy and loose, with sleeves that go down to the elbows, and there’s some ends fraying from the bottom, and a hole near the centre of the back.
And I love this thing.
And I remember when it used to be Mum’s.
She’d wear this all the time. She loved it. It was all soft and homey, and I think it filled her with memories. “Well, I met your dad in this thing, my hair was just as much of a mess, and he still fancied me. Go figure, right?”
And I was a toddler, but I still remember this: hugging the figure wearing this jumper, and feeling its soft knit, and her soft hair against my skin. And I remember saying to her: “Why do you always wear this?”
“This,” she said, “this is my old jumper. It’s older than you are.”
And Dad came up behind her and put his arms around her shoulders, and said, “What’s this? I thought I was your old jumper?’
He’d get a bit frisky after he said that. Whenever she mentioned her old jumper. Or sometimes he’d say, ‘so you’re wearing your old jumper again’ just so he could deliver that line. I was many years older before I learned the word ‘foreplay’ and started rolling my eyes at their antics.
And I remember the time I got lost at the fair. I was six, and sheltered, and I was a timid little thing. All I wanted was Mum and Dad, and I was sure they’d been right next to me. But then I’d seen this stall full of shiny things that spun and changed shape, and glittered in the sun. I was fascinated. But then… then… where were they?
I remember being frantic. Crying.
A stranger saying, “What is it, love?”
“I can’t find Mum and Dad.”
“We’ll find them for you. What do they look like?”
And this fairground, just so clotted with so many people, so many sets of legs, and so much noise, and smells. And what if they just got in the car and drove away without me and didn’t come back?
But then I saw the patchwork, the colours of Mum’s jumper. “They look like that!” And there she was, threading through the crowd, coming to find me.
Conversation going on above my head as I fell into that embrace. “So, you’re Mum then?”
“So sorry, she just slipped away.”
“They do that.”
“Little lumps of trouble. Little monsters.”
I didn’t care what they were saying, I just cared to be held, to know I was going back home with my family. The sight of that jumper, those colours: safety, salvation: something about that was etched onto my soul that afternoon.
The car was broken down, we were trying to get some cell coverage. Me, my friend Dinah, the two boys from school we were not meant to be out with. And then it was pissing down with rain, and the trees were no kind of shelter.
One of the boys shoved his hand down my pants. “Well, so long as we’re here in the middle of nowhere, and we don’t have anything to do…”
An hour later, sitting at the dinner table, half waiting for the lecture, half not even caring. I drank soup from a mug, and Mum put the jumper over my shoulders, and her cheek on the top of my head. “It’s all right, love, you’re home now.”
Ten years later. Now we’re clearing out the mess of a garden at my new flat, because the landlord said two weeks free rent if I did. Weeds blowing in the wind. My brother going out for fish and chips, and all four of us sitting in the middle of the work-in-progress, eating, laughing, making silly plans. I probably looked cold and or something, because Mum gave me the jumper. It fit like a glove.
“That suits you,” she said.
“It’s just a wonder it doesn’t turn to dust.”
“It’s still younger than me,” she said, “just.”
She told me to keep it, or maybe she just didn’t ask for it back. I don’t remember exactly. I just remember that it became my old jumper. I just remember that I’d wear it for comfort sometimes when things got tough, that it always smelt of something I couldn’t name, and that it always made me feel a little safer.
Well, it still fits.
I pull it on over my yellow skivvy, and I check myself out in the mirror. Funny, I don’t really think about it much, but I do take after my mum. I have more than her eyes, I have her face shape, and the high freckles, and her pointy chin. And I have a way of sitting, a way of moving, that I see in myself and suddenly remember in her.
I take a selfie. I send it to her.
I text: How do I look?
She answers: As gorgeous as ever.
Picture Credit/Discredit: author's own work