Once upon a time, circa 2001, age 17, I acquired the sweater of all sweaters. It was nothing fancy, no, not at all. In fact, it was pretty gruesome looking: chunky-knit, red, four sizes too big, lopsided after it wasn’t properly laundered, and something one might wear in a valiant effort to cover up one’s womanly form completely. Such a sweater could only come from one source—a weekly catalog sent snail mail to my mom, featuring an array of unattractive clothes on models who managed to make the rotten-looking outfits somewhat fashionable.
I dubbed the sweater “Little Red.” Why? I guess for some bizarre reason she reminded me of something Little Red Riding Hood might wear while journeying to her grandmother’s house through the woods, and for some even stranger reason this made her all the more attractive to me. When I laid eyes on Little Red that fateful day, in that ridiculous catalog, I knew she must be mine. I envisioned myself in Little Red, casually attending bonfires with my high school friends, and other scenes of me wearing her while cozying up on the couch with my nerdy boyfriend. I decided she was the perfect way to convey the laid-back, reformed grunge look I was going for. I asked my mom for her credit card STAT, and she obliged.
I wore Little Red for all occasions mentioned, and then some. After graduating high school, and in my very early twenties, I wore her over leotards and tights while attending dance classes at a musical theater college in New York City, I wore Little Red over vintage t-shirts with ripped jeans to dive bars once I was old enough to drink, and I even wore her over a sensible black dress with a decorative broach to an interview at a trendy salon. (No, I didn’t get any compliments on my outfit, but I did get the job.) Little Red has gone everywhere with me for the last 12 years. We’ve gone from Michigan, to Manhattan, to Long Island, to Brooklyn together. Here’s where it gets sad: she didn’t make it to my newest apartment in Queens.
Anyone who has moved knows how easily things can get lost in the shuffle. You’re keeping this, but not keeping that. Here’s the pile for stuff to keep, there’s a pile for stuff to pitch or donate. Somewhere in that craziness I lost Little Red forever. It’s still not clear to me how it happened, but I think she somehow got mixed up in the clothes to be donated. All I really know is that when I began to unpack the boxes to my new apartment with my husband in Queens, Little Red was not there. I tore box after box open in search of her, but she never appeared. I was heartbroken. I’m not pregnant, but I must tell you, I had high hopes Little Red and I would surely see a new fashion era of leggings and bump-friendly tanks that would make her the star.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m kind of one of those people who believes nothing is an accident, even when it comes to me losing Little Red forever. I truly believe she ended up in a box to be donated, and that she has moved onto someone else, creating new memories and warmth. That’s sort of sweet, right? Of course, there’s always the flip side of the spectrum, the one where Little Red just couldn’t be tied down to me anymore, or listen to my droning on and on about how much I love her, fawning over what a loyal gal she’s been. Maybe I was just too much. Maybe she needed more excitement in her life. Freedom. Maybe she needed a man. Either way, I miss her.