Charlene gave it to him. The same Charlene who scrawled across two pages in his high school yearbook. I tease him and call her “If-Our-Love-Is-True-Charlene.” He laughs and crosses his arms and scratches them like he does when he gets embarrassed.
But he still wears it in spite of the holes that have unraveled. He’s practical like that. He hangs on to clothes until they completely fall apart. I try to help things along–pull a thread here, stretch a hole there.
I don’t quite remember, but he might even be wearing it tonight. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and there’s a police officer at the door. He’s insistent. Somebody has reported us as witnesses to an accident, and we must come to the station and give statements.
My husband is insistent. We were not, it’s silly, it’s stupid, it makes no sense, and we’re not going.
The officer is surprised at the refusal. They argue briefly until Sissy whispers to my husband, “It’s a surprise. Play along.”
I’m a little scared, but we bundle up, leave the warmth of my brother’s home where the family has gathered, leave the laughter, leave the food, and head out into the bitter northern Michigan night. We follow the cruiser that drives west, the opposite direction from the station and pulls into a hotel parking lot. The officer gets out of his car and comes back to ours. “Your mother has made reservations for you here tonight. Happy anniversary!”
I so do not want to be here.
We go to the desk and retrieve the key to our room–which is dark, empty, sterile, and freezing cold. Cold enough, Dennis says later, that if we’d turned on the water in the jacuzzi, it would have frozen. Someone has decorated, and there’s a bottle of champagne.
And right there in that dark doorway, I fall apart, unravel, and break down.
I don’t know if it’s because I miss the warmth and the light and family time. Or if it’s just the safety in numbers–no expectations. I’m not feeling grateful. But I am feeling guilty. There’s nothing–no way, no how–that will make me feel romantic. And that just makes me cry harder.
We’d actually hoped to renew our vows on our 25th, but life has been so incredibly stressful lately. Nobody knows this.
He draws me close and shuts the door. We return to the office. He’s upset because I’m upset, and he explains to the clerk that we just can’t stay, even though the room’s already been paid for. He asks if we can get a credit for another night.
I find a phone and call my sister-in-law. “I. Just. Want. To. Come. Home.” I’m sobbing uncontrollably now.
So we return to the light and the warmth and the laughter, and I’ve pretty much forgotten the rest of the weekend.
We never go back to the hotel, and I don’t know if my mother got the credit. I do know that she wasn’t very happy that her plans unraveled.
That sweater’s gone now. As comfortable as it was, it finally fell irreparably apart. With a little help, of course.
He shakes his head. “I slept with it for years after that,”
“Not true,” I scold. He laughs and crosses his arms and scratches them.
We don’t remember which of us finally disposed of the last fragments. We probably should have held a ceremony at the burn barrel.
Since then our marriage has been stressed and pulled and stretched to the breaking point. But we’re resilient. The threads have held and grown stronger.
And though we still haven’t renewed our vows (we just celebrated #44), he still sleeps with me and not a sweater. Unless I’m wearing one.
You might say we have a mohair marriage.
Some notes about mohair: The word “mohair” was adopted into English before 1570 from the Arabic, mukhayyar, a type of haircloth, literally ‘choice’, from khayyara, ‘he chose‘. Mohair fiber may be the most durable and resilient animal fiber, and its luster and sheen has helped give it the title of the “Diamond Fiber.” It’s approximately 25-45 microns in diameter and stronger than steel of the same diameter. Its thickness increases with the age of the goat. It’s very elastic, and even if stretched up to 30%, it will spring back into shape. Mohair is also warm as it has great insulating properties. Upholstery, carpets and curtains of mohair are durable and nearly fireproof. And they say it’s not itchy.
Retrieved from the archives and dusted off a bit
In the stillness,