When I turned 5, my fashion-oblivious mother decided I was capable of picking out my own clothes. I don’t say this too often about my mom’s parenting choices, so take note– she was wrong.
After several hours of wandering around department stores, I ended up with a myriad of questionable selections, the worst offender being a banana-yellow sweat suit. I asked the Internet for help finding a picture of this outfit, but apparently someone wiped them from existence. This seems to be a reasonable course of action. It was an exceptionally awful ensemble.
But I loved it.
I don’t just mean it was the outfit I wore most often– though it was. I don’t just mean it was the only set of clothes I asked my mom to take to the dry cleaner– though it was.
I mean that I loved it.
My outfit could do no wrong. It was always appropriate, no matter what anyone said. It was lucky. It made me smarter. I’m pretty sure it gave me superpowers.
It was just an ordinary sweat suit. There were no zippers, hoods, or stripes and it was made out of “sweat material”. It even cinched at the ankles and wrists like a normal sweat suit. But when I wore it, I felt like this:
The point is… I loved my sweat suit and it loved me back.
I know this because on Monday, February 5th, 1990, it saved my life.
You see, back then, I lived on a farm. I was still a city girl at heart, but I lived in a place where water was drawn from the ground and the sun rose with a cockadoodledoo. The chickens had names and the pigs had a higher food budget than most adults.
We had a small water-well out front, which was for small errands and nostalgia. It was like one of those classic cartoon wells where a bucket goes down, and is pulled up– brimming with water. You know, the sort of well that Jack and Jill climbed up a hill to find.
Our back well, though, was the type of well that feeds a farm. It was vast, and deep, and made churning sounds. On rainy days, we would run outside to cover it as quickly as possible– dragging a wooden slat roughly the size of a full size bed across the open face of the well. It took two adults, or 3 of us younger kids plus an adult, to move that slat with any real efficiency.
One day, it started to drizzle when my little brother, my big sister, and myself were outside playing. We could have called to my older brother, but, in silent agreement, decided to cover the water-well ourselves.
Everything was going fine– if a bit slowly– when I noticed that a tiny chick had decided to seek shelter from the rain by unknowingly jumping into the well. I dropped my side of the wooden slat and went to retrieve the chick before we suffocated it, or before it drowned.
Apparently, letting go of my side of the slat made no noticeable difference because my siblings kept moving the cover. It hit my side and knocked me in. In the ruckus, the chick jumped out and made her way to freedom.
Meanwhile, I was drowning, face down in the water.
My siblings couldn’t hear or see in the rain, completely focused on covering the water-well without help from an adult.
Luckily, my sweat suit was there to do the rescuing. It’s left leg latched to the corner of the slat. When my siblings pushed their final push, the natural laws of physics explored their full potential, and I was thrust up from the water into the air. My sweatshirt temporarily clung to the slat, pulled itself off of me, and then fell to the ground– just in time to offer my head a pillow on my descent towards the concrete.
My big sister saw me first and did what big sisters do when their little sisters are dirty, soaked, and lying half-clothed in the rain. She pulled off her own coat to give it to me, checked me for injuries, and then laughed, and laughed some more.
“Rara! What are you doing?!” she exclaimed when she had finished laughing enough to admonish me. “You were fine just a second ago!”
Yes, that sweat suit saved my life and I wasn’t able to return the favor– it was ripped, and muddied, and hardly looked like clothing at all anymore. It died that day.
The next morning– the sort of bright sunny day typical after heavy rains– my family was having an outdoor meal by the well. My mom dropped a dish right where my head had landed, except the dish didn’t have the benefit of a sweatshirt pillow.
It shattered into a million tiny pieces.
My dad muttered something under his breath and I asked him to repeat it so I could hear.
“Oh, it was nothing.” he said, “I was just giving thanks for sweaty yellow angels.”