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February 11, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Photo by Jonathan Stephanoff
There it lay atop a box stuffed with others just like it. It was nothing special, just a folded navy blue piece of fabric. Yet, I balanced on the tips of my toes and cranned my neck to get a better view inside the box as if I were looking at the most unique and meaningful thing I had ever set my eyes on. As my coach called me forward to collect my informational forms and uniform, I kept glancing toward the overflowing box. A smile spread across my face as she handed me the last of my supplies: the top shirt from the box. I unfurled the navy sweat shirt with the “Wayzata Fastpitch” logo on front the moment I left the room and threw it over my head and stepped proudly out the back door of the school where my mom waited to pick me up in her minivan.
On that day, my 13-year-old self was merely excited about the fact that I was receiving my first sports sweat shirt for the district team. I couldn’t wait to wear the shirt to school the next day and look just like the cool high school kids in their sports gear. Wearing the sweat shirt around school would make it official, I fit in somewhere, I was part of a team. I was proud to represent a team that was such a big part of my life, the time commitment I put in and the enjoyment I got from being a part of it. However, throughout the year, my love for and attachment to the sweat shirt would only grow.
Warming me up when it was cold outside, on many occasions, the sweat shirt performed its basic function. It was always my shirt of choice to put on before leaving the house on a chilly night, throw on over my T-shirt when I woke up cold during the night, or bring with me on a trip up to my cabin, where warmer layers were always needed after the sun set. But, beyond that, the shirt also provided a comfort to me that is best explained by comparing it to that a child gets from their blanket.
Whenever I was feeling especially gloomy or alone, putting on the shirt or even lying in bed hugging it, gave me the comfort that many would get from a favorite teddy bear or stuffed animal. There was no real incident that caused me to see the sweat shirt as more than just an item of clothing, just the compilation of times I have used the shirt over the years that caused my attachment to it to grow. Originally it was my favorite sweat shirt because of the pride I got from wearing it and the way it represented to the world that I had made the Wayzata softball team, but eventually it became my go-to shirt out of habit. I got a new softball sweat shirt every year I played, but none meant as much to me as the first. It was no longer my favorite because of what it represented but because of the fact that it had been for so long; I have owned it longer than any of my other possessions. It serves as a connection to my past. Putting it on or even seeing it sitting on the top shelf of my closet, reminds me of home and my middle and high school days.
I remember all the softball games, weekend tournaments and early-morning and late-night practices the shirt represents to me. But, I also remember wearing it every night on my sophomore year spring break trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, because it was the only sweat shirt I brought with since I expected it to be warm the whole time and the church retreat the winter of eighth grade when the shirt gave me warmth and comfort as I slept in a cabin far away from home. Also during my freshman year of college I asked my parents to bring it down when they visited me for family weekend because I had left it at home. I knew I wouldn’t want to wear my old high school logo around campus but then wished I had it with me, just to wear around my dorm room when I felt homesick.
I have worn the sweat shirt so much throughout our 10-year relationship that the cuffs of the sleeves are ripped up and unraveling, the patchwork letters are starting to peel off the front and the front pocket and sleeves are splattered with random paint and ink stains.
Throughout the years I have donated, sold and thrown away dozens of boxes filled with jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, shorts, tank tops and other items that I have outgrown, both physically and in terms of style. Even though the old sweat shirt is in worse condition than most of the items that have found their fate in the donation pile, it has never ended up there. Although I went through periods where the shirt lay unworn for months on the top shelf of my closet, I couldn’t bear the thought of not having it around because not only does the shirt represent the memory of that first season of softball and all subsequent seasons throughout middle and high school, but it holds the memory of everything it had seen me through both the good and bad.