In August 2006 my daughter Jessica and I took a road trip from Colorado to Oregon where I was going to deposit her at Pacific University, a small private school in the cute little town of Forest Grove. My credit card and I would be there for a few days, making sure she had what she needed, then I’d turn around and drive home.
I decided she and I needed some alone time, and it was impractical (and probably foolhardy) to leave her younger brothers on their own without full parental guidance, so my husband sat out this adventure.
We had such fun over those several days! CD player loaded with Broadway soundtracks. Singing at the top of our lungs. List of places to stop for native Road Food and infamous local restaurants. A map of all the cool stuff we’d see along our route. Tree growing out of a rock in the middle of a lonesome highway in Wyoming. World’s Biggest Ball of Twine. A geyser in Soda Springs, Idaho. A giant statue of Abe Lincoln’s head. Carnivorous lilies. A huge bronze pyramid, built so early rail passengers could see something entertaining on their journey. Yeah, we had fun.
On moving in day, we barely got parked before a horde of students swarmed the car and emptied it of all traces of my daughter, whisking her away to her new life.
We did the parent/student orientation stuff, partook of the Welcome Barbecue, met lots of people, explored Forest Grove. The campus is in the center of town, and reminded me so much of my experience at virtually the same college in California.
One of the things I needed, though, was a light jacket because I was heading home through Ashland, Oregon where I was going to spend a few days at the Shakespeare Festival. Lots of the venues were outdoors, and I figured I’d get chilly in the evening.
We stumbled on a Goodwill store where I found a periwinkle fleece made by Speedo. I wasn’t wild about the color, but it was my only option, so I plunked down my three dollars and bought it.
When it was time for me to leave Jessica, I walked around that lovely campus and was so happy for her. She was exactly where she wanted to be. Her adventure was just beginning.
And so was mine.
The Shakespeare Festival was fantastic and I saw a ton of great plays. But my first morning there I really missed my daughter. You see, it was her job in the motels to set the clock radios and make sure they didn’t blare full-blast when they rang. But because she wasn’t there to handle this important job, nobody handled it. That first morning, the alarm was full-blast and—quite literally—launched me out of bed, across the large room, and to the floor where I immediately began laughing, and still do every time I think about it. It’s even funnier knowing that I reminded her to check the volume every single night.
My periwinkle fleece was perfect for the festival. An excellent purchase.
There was a detour on the rural state highway outside of Ashland when I finally had to leave. It wound me through increasingly smaller forest roads, and I got lost. I didn’t mind, though, because it was such a magical place. If I would have had my car engulfed by a full contingent of flitting fairies, or passed a merry band of dwarves on their way to work in the diamond mine, I would not have been surprised. I pulled over to think and my periwinkle fleece kept me warm under the forest canopy sunlight couldn’t hope to permeate.
I only had one scary moment on this trip. When I reached the tiny town of Kemmerer WY, it was late, almost dark. I hadn’t worried about getting a motel room because I knew there were two or three places to stay (since we stayed there on the way to Oregon) and since it was during the week, finding a room shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. During the week is when all the wildcatters work in the oil fields and fill the motels. Due to the kindness of a stranger, I got the last room in town. While she phoned around, I huddled in my periwinkle fleece, being anxious.
I still wear that periwinkle fleece. Almost every day. It’s getting thin and has a couple of holes beginning to wear through on the cuffs. It’s usually covered in hair, some of it mine, but most of it Nala’s.
Every so often I marvel at everything I didn’t know when I bought it. I didn’t know how very much my daughter would thrive at school. I didn’t know she’d never live in Colorado with us again. I couldn’t have imagined both my boys joining the Navy. It would never have occurred to me that in my enormous family, we’d find a long-lost nephew and that he’d fit in with us in the blink of an eye. I had no idea that tumor was growing inside my spine. And the pandemic? Not on my radar.
My periwinkle fleece has helped write most of my books and blog posts, including this one. It was with me when I signed all of my publishing contracts. It has kept me company over the course of enjoying many books and libations on my patio, lazing away entire afternoons.
Would I believe anyone who told me what my periwinkle fleece and I would see over the years? Would I believe anyone who told me that it would still be an actual, wearable garment fifteen years later?
It seems my periwinkle fleece just might last longer than I do. And if that’s the case, I’m willing it to my daughter. Or maybe the Speedo museum.
Do you have anything you’ve kept over many years and still use? What does it represent to you? Do people mock you? Is it covered in dog hair?