The sweater was red and gold plaid, one of the warmest I owned at the time, and I wore it on September third, the year I turned sixteen. I remember this because it was the second date I had with The Songwriter, and I was besotted in that unique way that teenage girls can be; we remember everything.
There aren't many roads for a serious relationship to travel at that age; we still had so much living to do, so much life to discover. So we became best friends instead. We'd go out on dates, then call each other up when those dates were over to run down to the all night record store together. That was when the fun really happened. We'd talk and laugh, neither of us realizing that the foundation for a happy marriage was being built right before our eyes.
So of course, I remember that sweater. I think I even still have it somewhere. It reminds me of many things: love, and history - youth, and the passing of time. It also leads me back to the sort of autumns we used to know. For today, I cannot even imagine wearing the warmest sweater in my wardrobe on the third day of September.
The old fable tells us if you put a frog into boiling water, he will, understandably, jump out. But if you make him comfortable in a tepid pot, you can slowly turn up the heat until he boils to death. Now, I have no intention of testing that theory, but it's a pretty apt metaphor for the situation in which we sit today.
I'm not all that old, but I can remember many September mornings on the first day of school when we lined up wearing new corduroy and wool. Crisp air flowed in through open windows as we slept, we'd wake in the night with our noses cold. Winter meant at least one or two good snowfalls, and Easter mornings were chilly and bright. We only ran the air-conditioner occasionally in summertime; if the thermometer hit ninety, we were shocked. If we'd suddenly been placed in the year 2020, like our friend the frog, we'd have looked for a way to jump out. If we'd been shown the future, photographs like the one above from California this week, the horror would have been overwhelming, the fear paralyzing.
The disasters have increased slowly, hubris turning up the heat in incremental amounts. The hundred-year floods coming every decade, then nearly every year. Cataclysmic hurricanes no longer rare. We have lost so much time in the past three and a half years as we've watched this administration gleefully rip up every regulation placed by its predecessor as roadblocks to disaster. Beginning with his decision to lead the nation out of the Paris climate accord, the man in the White House has done more to roll back and weaken every environmental law than any president in history. We have been hobbled by ignorance, idiocy, and arrogance to such an extent it is difficult to visualize breaking free of those ancient, calamitous chains.
Like "awesome", the word "devastating" has become so overused in the current parlance it seems to have lost all coherent meaning. There is such a roster of issues in our country at present that meet the requirements for that definition - from the shameless bating of racists, to the 200,000 Americans lost in this pandemic, the severity of which the current president chose to lie about and ridicule even as he knew better. It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate image for our current state than the chilling photo taken this week of the Golden Gate Bridge, its beauty obscured by the flames of a modern-day hell.
I doubt I'll live to see another autumn like the ones we used to know. Perhaps none of us will. But maybe, just maybe, it doesn't have to get worse. Maybe, just maybe, there are enough people left who can see the seriousness of this next election and will choose for the children coming up behind us, children who deserve to live in a better world than this, children who will remember sweaters.
Please go to Vote.org to make certain you are registered to vote.
Make a plan for how you're going to do it, and vote as early as your state allows.