Last September, summer’s extended stay gave notice to the night with a persistent chill insinuating itself on our outdoor gathering. While my friends Nancy and Scarlett had decorated their gazebo and garden table in floral and fabric finery, dinner guests came prepared, outfitted in wraps, jackets and fleece. I, on the other hand, was dressed for a Palm Beach croquet match. (Think beefy Thurston Howell III.) Human furnace that I am, I relied on my personal layer of insulation to keep me warm. In the Pacific Northwest, grilling and Gore-Tex, s’mores and snuggies go hand in hand. One willow whip of a friend returned from the house resembling a little bonbon encased in multiple layers and double dipped in a chocolate brown down jacket.
When I finally admitted I too was cold, my friend Catherine came to my rescue offering up a wool blanket for my lap and a cardigan for the upper half. (Bless her.) I was now ready for an Atlantic crossing in November (or a Seattle cookout in September). With a quick zip, the gray cashmere sweater locked in the warmth and upped my dapper factor post haste. Then, its simple two-letter monogram caught my attention.
“Catherine, who’s WJ?” I asked.
“My father, you’re wearing my Dad’s sweater.”
“Well, your Dad has some excellent taste in outerwear. Nice sweater.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” she said, her big smile framed by candlelight and friends. I asked her to tell me more about the man responsible for my newly-found comfort, and no doubt for her lifelong sparkle.
Catherine revealed her friendly family secrets and shared generous recollections of her Dad. With he in the Midwest, she on the West Coast, you could see in her eyes how each story fostered a fond and immediate reunion with him. Later, when I stood up to return the sweater, Catherine stopped me and said, “Please keep the sweater. Dad would be happy that you like it so much.”
She would not take no for answer, so I left better dressed and warmer than when I had arrived. Driving home on the dark, hilly roads of Vashon, I felt honored by the impromptu and heartfelt gift. And while I had no trouble filling WJ’s extra-large sweater, I venture to say that would not be the case had I been handed his shoes.
Months later on this frosty December morning, my wooly gift continues to warm me, keeping me comfortable in a house at home with drafts and chills. And now when I look down at those initials, I only think it fitting that the letters WJ are stitched right over the heart.
Thank you Catherine, thank you William.