There's this blue hoodie. It's way too big for me, but it's soft and warm and covers my ears, and so I love it. For a long time it was missing. Now it's back.
I got the hoodie in Cincinnati in the middle of The Hullaballo of 2010. It was August, but I spent hours freezing my ass off. It was cooold in the ICU and my husband made a trip to the gift shop to try and help me abate my 24-hour shivering. He returned with a navy blue hoodie big enough for a linebacker, and emblazoned with a machine-embroidered logo of the hospital over the right breast. It was perfect. It covered my hands, covered my ears, could be used as a blanket in a pinch, rolled up into a pillow, had pockets big enough to sneak food into the room, and helped me briefly blend in with the medical staff when I would spout off during rounds.
I wore it everyday, and most nights. I wiped tears and snot on the arms. I washed and dried it in the small washer and dryer hidden in the closet by the awful "break room". Then, the frigid hospital released us, we drove back to Texas, it was a hundred thousand degrees and the hoodie went into the coat closet.
It stayed there for a long time, which was fine with me. The hoodie was like a sort of relic, almost a trophy, really; a symbol of a battle conquered, a time that was both terrifying and triumphant. So I was OK with leaving it in the closet. I pulled it out a couple of times on cool days, or on days when I felt bad, and I snuggled up in it to suss out whether it was going to be like a time machine and pull me back into the ICU, or just be soft and comfortable. Luckily, it always landed on the side of soft and comfortable.
A while passed and it was cold again. The Oldest Boy was running late for school and needed a jacket, so he swiped my blue hoodie. This was fine with me – until he lost it.
Then… then I was like a four-year-old who'd lost her woobie. I was beside myself worrying where that hoodie was. I tried to play it cool. We calmly checked the lost and found, he scoured his classroom, it was nowhere. My hoodie had vanished.
But then it appeared! I removed a wrinkled navy blue hoodie crumpled up in the bottom of The Oldest Boy's backpack. "You found it!" I exclaimed, forgetting that I was playing it cool. He shrugged and told me it was in the lost and found after all. We washed it, dried it, I put it on, and it felt… weird. The bottom was too loose, the sleeves not long enough. And then I noticed – there was no hospital logo. This was not, in fact, my hoodie. It was an imposter hoodie. My hopes were dashed.
I implored my son to keep looking for my blue jacket and he promised he would, but days passed, then weeks, and I knew it was gone.
But wait! One day, breathless after school, my son ran to me and said, "Your jacket! I found it!" then he paused. "Well, I saw it, actually."
"You saw it? Why didn't you get it? Where was it?"
He scuffed his shoes along the floor and said, "The lunch monitor was wearing it."
"I saw the hospital part on the front. She definitely had it on."
Well, this threw a wrench into everything. We couldn't just go yank the jacket off the lunch monitor. Then it dawned on me. It was a simple lost and found mix-up. We had her jacket, she had mine. I asked my son if he would perform a switcheroo at lunch the next day – just talk to the monitor, explain everything, smile a lot, laugh some and ta da! Everything is back where it should be. Simple right?
I picked him up from school the next day, desperately trying to hide my anxiousness, and asked how everything went. He didn't get the hoodie. Why? Because he had left the other one at home.
Next day, take two. I picked him up from school and nope, no exchange. He said he talked to her, but there was a language barrier and he wasn't sure if she understood him.
Then we paused to figure out what to do next.
But we paused for too long because the lunch monitor never wore the jacket again. Again, I realized the hoodie must be lost forever and I should just accept it. I did accept it. I washed and dried the imposter hoodie, gave it to my son and asked him to please return it to the lunch monitor, guessing it really was hers to begin with. He said OK.
Yesterday, my husband pulls this ratty ass looking thing from the trunk of his car. It's covered in burrs and dirt and grass and smells like someone tested out every perfume from the corner Walgreens. The left pocket is ripped. But it's my hoodie. The hospital logo is intact, gleaming even.
"Where did you find it?" I asked.
"It was the weirdest thing," he said. "I found it crumpled in the road, under the speed limit sign, just in front of the school."
It's in the dryer right now, and I have plans to stitch the pocket. My son admited that he has not returned the other hoodie, that it's stuffed in his desk at school. Under threats of wild finger-pointing, he has agreed to hand it over to the lunch monitor as soon as possible.
I sit here now, wondering about the journey this hoodie has been on. I would be remiss if I didn't think a little bit about this whole story as a kind of metaphor for the journey that lead me to the hoodie in the first place, and how (albeit in a more complex way) some love and stitching fixed a lot of things that seemed to be out of our control all those months ago in that freezing ICU.
I'm glad to have it back. Really, really glad.