It’s just an old pink sweatshirt. Mama bought it over 15 years ago when we were out on one of our weekly shopping trips. Over the years she found she loved the “Hanes Her Way” brand from WalMart and had them in all the pastel colors, with pink being her favorite. She loved the softness of the cloth – even before they’d been washed and dried 100 times. She loved the way they fit – loose and comfortable. She loved the warmth of slipping them on when the air turned chilly in the fall, or even over a summer shirt when she planned to eat out in an air conditioned restaurant in the summer. “You know it’s going to be cold in there, Brenda. I’ll need my sweatshirt.”
Mama’s been gone nearly nine years now, and even though I think about her every day, it’s on the special days – like her birthday or this Sunday on Mother’s Day – that the memories come back full force, and I allow my mind to travel back to when she was still here, and I could physically touch her.
There’s nothing more comforting than being held in your mother’s arms. Mama held me as a baby and as a small child, but I have no real memories of those times. It’s the times she held me as an adult – whether happily when she’d greet me, or tightly when I was sure my world was falling apart – that I remember and cherish. As long as she lived I knew there was one earthly person who loved me unconditionally. No matter how bad I messed up, or how many tears I caused – I knew she’d never, ever not love me.
It’s hard to lose that comfort.
Months after Mama died, as I was going through her closets, I pulled out a few things to save. With me at 5’7′ and Mama at 5′ even, we very seldom could wear each other’s clothes. Nevertheless, I saved her Christmas sweaters (every tacky one of them, and I wear one each Christmas), a short housedress (I’ve never had it on, but it was so “Mama” I couldn’t let it go), and one of her Hanes For Her sweatshirts – the pink one.
I wear that pink sweatshirt a lot in the fall and winter. Mama was right – it’s very soft and comfortable. But that’s not why I wear it. When I slip it over my head and put my arms through the sleeves, I can almost feel her arms wrapping around me. I can almost feel her hands patting my back and hear her whispering in my ear, “I love you, Brenda.” And that’s almost as good as the real thing.
When I get up on Mother’s Day this Sunday I’ll put that sweatshirt on over my pj’s. Then I’ll pour a cup of coffee and go sit out on the balcony. And for just a few moments I’ll pretend she’s sitting in the chair next to me – just the two of us – Mama and me.
And I’ll feel unconditionally loved.