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Cable Knit Sweaters and Marching Bands

When we were in high school, my parents gave my brother a sweater for Christmas. It was quite simply the very best sweater ever. Soft wool, shades of tan and ecru, cable knit design on the front, extra long sleeves, and just the right length. Ultra comfy.

He loved it. And so did I.

We traveled in a pretty intimate circle of friends in the year we spent together in high school, and all our friends loved the sweater too. In fact, it became the band sweater.

(Rob and I were band nerds… but that’s really a very endearing term for those who truly carry the title. If you get to choose the circle your kids travel in, choose the marching band. It’s filled with creative artists who learn to cooperate, pursue and sharpen a skill, and think as individuals inside a greater community. Plus, band practice and football games ensure that you know where they are after school and on Friday nights. And anyway, it’s just fun. Some of the most fun I ever had.)

It became something of a mascot. The sweater lived in the band room, but it traveled with our various friends – sometimes to history or biology class, and sometimes to somebody else’s house for the night. It even accompanied us on band trips. But it always came back to the collective, and it became so beloved. The soft wool got softer, the sleeves grew longer, and the perfect length accommodated anyone’s shape. It was the 90s, woolly version of the Traveling Pants.

Rob and I felt honored when one of us got to wear it again, as it made the rounds through the others who loved it so much.

Sadly, my mom never really understood the miracle of The Band Sweater. She was really quite sure that Rob hadn’t liked this gift for which she had shopped and compared and chosen so carefully. She thought maybe he didn’t like it at all, and he contributed it to the Goodwill Community that was the band, all under the guise of altruism. My mom was a really good sport – she just felt mildly deceived. She loved us and all our friends, but she wasn’t necessarily all about my brother’s clothes belonging to the collective whole.

Try as we did, we couldn’t convince her that it was the greatest compliment of all: she had indeed purchased the sweater that everyone loved most. My brother and I owned that which everyone wanted to wear. She demanded a few times that we bring it home and claim it as part of Rob’s official wardrobe, but it always migrated back into the community at the next all-nighter.

I wonder whatever happened to that really great sweater, in all its loveliness… it was indeed an extraordinary article of clothing.

Here’s to you, Band Sweater. I hope someone is wearing you right now.

Preferably a band nerd.

Tricia Lott Williford

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