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Hi. This is “A Thousand Words”, June 21st, 2019. Welcome to the podcast.
What’s the oldest thing you own? A photograph? A toy you don’t play with anymore? A piece of jewellery? Some clothing? An old bottle of whiskey? Did you buy it yourself? Was it a gift? Did you find it somewhere? Did you borrow it from someone a long time ago and never give it back? Do you have many old things? Do old things make you feel nostalgic? Do you use and recycle things until they’re reduced to buttons or parts of wind chimes ? Is the oldest thing you own something you still use? Or is it something you let someone borrow a long time ago and they haven’t given it back yet?
The oldest thing I own is a piece of clothing – a sweatshirt. I got it when I was 17 years old, a present from my sister’s friend who I had a crush on . She was a couple of years older than me and, unfortunately, didn’t have a crush on me. But she gave me the sweatshirt anyway. Maybe because I couldn’t have her.
The sweatshirt is elephant gray and has long sleeves . There’s nothing on the back but the gray, but on the front there’s the seal  of the Georgia University of Technology, with the words Georgia above and Tech below the seal. The letters are yellow and traced by  a thin outline of black. My sister’s friend didn’t go to that university, but she visited a friend once who went there. Later, she moved to Florida with my sister where they both worked for Disney World. My sister only lasted five months, and I flew to Orlando to escort her back home because she didn’t want to drive all the way by herself. I spent a day in Orlando comparing Disney World to Disneyland and then another day not finding any alligators and marvelling at  how flat the landscape was. Over the next three days, we drove back to California through six southern States. Her friend stayed in Florida. That was the last time I ever saw her.
It’s a funny thing about clothes – it seems to me that women like wearing their boyfriend’s or husband’s clothing. Not from head to toe , but a long-sleeved shirt here, a sweater, socks, a jacket, T-shirts, sweatpants, even underwear. I can’t speak for other men, but I like seeing women wearing something of mine. Men’s clothing looks good on women. And there’s a closeness that comes with sharing clothes. It’s funny that men don’t usually wear their girlfriend’s clothes. At least not when their girlfriend is around. I’ve worn women’s socks and T-shirts and jackets. I don’t know if the women who owned all those things felt the way I did when they saw me in them. I wonder how my sister’s friend felt seeing me in her sweatshirt.
I’ve had the sweatshirt now for over 30 years. And seven women during that time have worn it.
I had it all to myself for the first two years, before I met a young woman named Mimi. Mimi only wore it twice, during a long weekend we spent together up in Big Sur, when she underestimated  the wind near the ocean and needed to dig into  my things to keep warm. As I watched her dance into the sweatshirt, I felt immediately close to her. She was the first woman to put something of mine on her body.
Ellen wore it next, only once. I met Ellen at a birthday party. She thought it was a costume party and was dressed up as Mia Farrow, the young hippie Mia Farrow, not the old, bitter Mia Farrow battling  Woody Allen these days. She sat cross-legged on the carpet in the living room and kept taking swigs  from a bottle of Jack Daniels. At one point she became quiet and sad.
“You know,” she confessed, “it’s my birthday today, too. But I don’t have a party of my own, so I came to this one.” She wasn’t sure what made her think it was a costume party. I pulled the sweatshirt out of my backpack as she shivered  on the carpet and let her wear it the rest of the night. She smelled nice, and I’m sure the sweatshirt would have smelled nice when she gave it back, but she puked  quite a lot, and so I had to wash it several times extra hot.
When I moved to San Francisco, I met a young woman named Nina. She was from New Mexico, visiting the city with friends. She lived with her bohemian parents in the desert two States away. Out for a walk together along the windy beach, I took off the sweatshirt and let her wear it. She kept it on the rest of the afternoon and gave it back later when we said goodnight. Again, seeing her in it made me feel very close to her.
I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the name of the next woman who wore it, even though I rode a bus three hours to see her. She put the sweatshirt on the next morning, and had it on only for a couple of hours during breakfast before I had to catch the bus back home. But, oh, she looked good in it. I can still see her hair – long, black – curling down over the letters. It looked so good on her that I rode back home without asking for it back. Luckily, a month later she returned it to me by mail. Ah! Catherine, that was her name, Catherine!
My wife was the next to wear it, and during our marriage she wore it around the house from time to time.
My daughter started wearing it even before it fit her. She would run around the apartment tripping over it . When she grew into it, she started wearing it outside the house. Between her and my wife, I got very little use of it. 
Now, my girlfriend wears it when she spends the night. My apartment’s colder than hers, and so either I let her wear the sweatshirt or she turns up the heaters and my bonsai plants dry out and drop their leaves. So it’s better she puts on the sweatshirt. Anyway, it looks better on her than on me.
The other night when my daughter came over for dinner, my girlfriend was there wearing the sweatshirt. A couple times I caught my daughter eyeing it . I imagined she remembered wearing it herself and seeing her own mother in it. I wondered how she felt seeing my girlfriend in it now. Women like wearing men’s clothes, but I don’t think they like seeing other women wearing the same clothes.
The sweatshirt has survived  well over its long life, with all the homes it’s been in, the countless times it’s been in a washing machine, the amount of people’s skin it’s touched. The tag  is too faded now to know where it was made or what temperature it should be washed and ironed  at. It has a few small holes near the waist  and is fraying  around the collar and at the ends of both sleeves. But other than that, it’s aging  well. It’s not how old something is, someone once said, it’s how something is old. I hope I can say the same about myself one day.
Thanks for listening.
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I’ll be back on July 5th with a story about magic mushrooms.