WJ’s Sweater: A Gift of Warmth

Not sure if Boz is cuddling up to me or the cashmere.

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.



22 thoughts on “WJ’s Sweater: A Gift of Warmth”

  • What a nice gift along with nice memories. You’re a gifted writer. I especically like: “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”. Brilliant!

  • Tom, you really should write a book about living on a mythical island. You have a fantastic way with words and always conjure up perfect images. And so you also very funny, a la Bill Bryson.

    You could acknowledge me in the book for your inspiration ! Thanks, Brooks

  • Yes, Tom, you need to write a book. Your words and they way they flow, tugging at the heart the whole time, is beautiful. Enjoy your sweater. It is rather special…moreso than any other gift could be. Well done, my friend. Well written. Susan

  • Tom,

    Good sweaters are like good friends they both warm the heart! And yes please write a book, you have such a gift with words 🙂

  • All my Dad wants for Christmas is a story, I am working on one from me, but will send him this one of yours as well. (Oh boy – he’ll get two) It will mean the world to him that his sweater travels on, so appreciated. You are a gifted writer Tom, a wonderful soul, one of God’s angels, barely disguised as a island farmer accompanied by Mr. Boz and Miss Gracie (no lesser angels than your self). Holiday blessings upon you and them and all who you love. C

  • I’ll admit – I teared up a little.
    What a wonderful ‘gift’, nothing beats an article of clothing with a story… Boz seems to agree. That lil’ snug-mug.

  • Make me cry. You are such a wonderful man, Tom. I feel the greatest gift has been getting to know your fine self and those fine canines. May many blessings of the season shower upon you.

  • I gave up TV, newspapers, radio… when I became a fan of Tallcloverfarm.com, not to mention TCF in real time. Here exists a slice of life created by Tom (not unlike the idealic Leave It To Beaver 50’s) resplendent with visuals of the written, real and digital kind. A magic place where the never ending waft of baking tollhouse chocolate chip cookies rises to the nose in warm, swirls of heavenly bliss (don’t forget the milk). Where strawberry cakes ooze sweetened cream goodness, and jewel filled jars of this year’s blue ribbon winner line the pantry. This is the memory place where my grandmother lives. Somewhere in a back parlor the faint easy voice of Ella Fitzgerald keeps the house company and sets a tone for the day. This is a place where sleeping dogs lay the day away far from the hustle and bustle of the road. Only having to lift a head for a pat or a treat. A place where good friends gather who never want to go home.

    I suggest you make it an official place of retreat from the modern world like Findhorn and write a book or 2 or 3. People can come and refresh their souls.

  • Tamara, I can see that $15 bribe paid off, thanks for the over-the-top comment and not mentioning the piles of laundry, project debris, weedy beds, dog hair, sink full of dishes and wrinkled clothes.

  • Thanks everyone for the kindest of comments and the push to write a book. You may have something there…now what would I write about? 😉 Seasons Greetings my friends, Tom

  • My family is driving me crazy and I am a really good house keeper. If you are going to write a book you need support. Can I come live with you? I promise to be super quiet. I could even put some oyster shells up for crown moulding…

  • Karen, you had me at “really good housekeeper.” Now how are you at pulling weeds and spreading compost? Oh yes, and Boz and Gracie wish know about how you feel about 60-pound lap dogs.

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