It was my first year of university, either 1999 or 2000, when I acquired this sweater. It came from Stitches, in Jackson Square. I think on this particular occasion, my roommate, Vidya, and I went to there perhaps with the express purpose of shopping (this is amusing to think about now, given the state of Jackson Square when I last saw it three years ago). I couldn’t tell you if we bought anything else, but we both bought this sweater — hers was a navy blue and mine was grey.
At this point, I can tell you that I was a complete newbie when it came to buying my own clothes. I was the kind of kid whose mom bought her all her clothes until I moved out for university. As such, I didn’t know what constituted a reasonable price for various items of clothing, nor did I really know what size I wore. Hello, sheltered kid. I paid more than I would now for this sweater — maybe $20 or so, and that was very likely its regular price (while this was a trend that followed me for the next four years, I now very rarely buy clothes on regular price any more). And it’s a size medium. I’d like to point out that I generally fit into extra-small or small clothes (extra-large or extra-extra-large, if I’m wearing kids’ clothes though). However, perhaps in the style of the late 90s/early 2000s, a slightly baggy sweater might’ve been in. It’s the kind of hoodie that’d have gone well board shorts (the label reads “board stiff,” if that might be any indication), and I’m willing to venture that I probably wore it with my red or blue or pink board shorts during the next four years. It was never a go-to sweater, just an item of clothing I’d once been excited to purchase, in the throes of my newfound independence.
As my wardrobe ballooned and I amassed more sweaters than I actually regularly wore, the grey sweater became an afterthought, buried in the bottom of my closet. I’m not sure why I didn’t donate it to the clothing swap, like I did with tons of my other clothes during my mass decluttering. It’s not like I ever liked it that much.
It ended up coming with me to the UK because my usual sweater than I slept in and bummed around the house in was too bulky for our luggage. I was a little sad to have to leave behind the cozy hoodie, courtesy of my time serving on the Student Representative Assembly, that was still too big for me despite being a size small, but I needed to cram other, more crucial clothes into the suitcase, dammit!
And so, this sweater, which I’d never really cared all that much for, became my sleeping sweater. All that daily wear made the zipper tab fall off first, but the zipper itself was still functional, despite quietly and gradually slipping ever downward through the night. This proved useful when night-nursing Ares, but I always worried that the unnecessarily sharp teeth of the zipper would mar his delicate newborn face (by the way, that didn’t happen, to my knowledge… whew!).
And then, the holes emerged in the sleeves. I was highly amused when they amounted to five holes, as I could stick my digits through them and voila, I had fingerless mitts built into my sleeves. Lucas could only shake his head at me. When the hole in the body got large enough, I was able to stick my boob through it to nurse without the frigid repercussions of having to lift my entire shirt and sweater.
The sweater, already too big to begin with, lost whatever shape it did have and hung limply from my body. Ditto with the sleeves, which were so droopy that if I attempted to push up my sleeves, they’d still drip down from my upper arm. Once, I was so frustrated with the saggy sleeves while I was doing the dishes, I actually held them in place with my teeth. There was probably a better solution, but in my moment of wet, drippy annoyance, this seemed like the best thing.
The material has worn so thin that you can see through it, without even having to hold it up to the light. One night last week, because I liked how it looked, I attempted to read an article on the New York Times website through the holes in my sleeve and the cobwebby cotton. It made for an interesting, layered view.
Two weeks ago, I finally decided I probably ought to replace the sweater, because it was clearly worn out and honestly, I have and had no love for it. Its replacement, discovered on the £5 rail of Resurrection, is apparently vintage. It’s red and emblazoned with the word “lifeguard” in large white capitals, it seems to follow the same pseudo-surfer style that was so popular in the early 2000s (I suppose that’s why they consider it [ahem] vintage now?). It’s much cozier and warmer than Ugly Grey Sweater ever was, to my recollection. The first night I wore it, Lucas said I looked like a different person every time he looked over at me. Obviously, wearing red makes me stand out more than grey ever did.
The old sweater now sits in a pile beside the couch because I’m not exactly sure what to do with it. No charity shop would want it, and the thinness of the material renders it utterly useless as rags. I feel bad adding it to the landfill but alas, I think that might be where it’ll end up. Because it was so crappy and I never cared for it, I’m not sad to see it go and I’ll easily toss it with a shrug. See you never again, Ugly Grey Sweater.
There was a surprisingly nice bout of warm weather about three weeks ago, and of course that meant I would try to take full advantage of it by being outside as much as possible. Monday saw us at Otterspool, at our usual meetup with our friends. Typically, I’m so worn out after that that all I want to do is veg for the next three days, but spurred on by the warm temperatures, I hauled Ares and Raspberry on a train up to Formby, to the squirrel reserve. We’d been there once before, with Carrie and Lucy, back in April. However, during that instance, the kids spent hours playing in the sand at the picnic area and we didn’t get much further than that. I made the deliberate decision to avoid the sandy bit, as I was determined to actually take a walk through the woods and see some squirrels this time around. [Spoiler alert: we didn’t see any squirrels, but we did chance upon two rabbits hiding in the bushes, as we were leaving.]
This was the first of many tree stumps she stood on.
And the first of many blackberries she picked.
We found a den (interestingly, not far from the sand pit I was trying to avoid)! It looked so cool and Raspberry tried to turn it into a yurt, with pots to cook with.
I enlisted a tired, grumpy and clingy Ares to pick up sticks (not for a game), just so I could rest my weary arms.
Oh hey, there happened to be food in Raspberry’s backpack, ready to be cut up and cooked. Ares wanted a turn too. They fought over it and I decided that it was time to move on (as awesome as this den was, I didn’t relish the thought of spending the next few hours there, sitting on a pokey ground blanketed with pine needles and pinecones, while the kids ran around. Next time, I’ll bring a book and we can do that).
Hello, dead tree.
Inspired by Olivia’s attempt to feed the pigeons in Olivia in Venice, Raspberry tried to hold out a handful of blackberries for the birds.
Much to her disappointment, they never came.
We followed an asparagus trail (not its proper name, but we so named it because of the pictures of asparagus next to the arrows), which led us away from the pine forest into the woods. We were under the impression that we might come upon a field of asparagus, but being directionally-challenged, I feared getting lost, so we turned back. [Upon further research, I now know there are actual asparagus fields; we’ll have to go the next time around.]. Also, I liked the pine forest better, as it had a more ethereal, magical quality to it than just a plain ol’ forest.
There were quite a few tree stumps in this area, and we made a game out of trying to climb on to every one. Ares enjoyed it but as one might expect, the seven-year-old lost interest soon enough. She discovered a path lined with brambles, promptly named it “Blackberry Alley” and went to town picking and munching away. This happened to be the day Ares started picking blackberries on his own.
Ares and Raspberry stuck pinecones in the hollow of a stump.
As much as I enjoyed the day and the quietude of the woods, I did get a little freaked out by how isolated it felt. Granted, it was a weekday and there were several other people walking their dogs or hiking with their kids, but there was still an overwhelming sense of solitude that scared me in the if-we-get-lost-no-one-will-find-us-and-we’ll-never-get-home sense. It’s completely unfounded, since for the most part, we stayed on the path, but I suppose I’m just not used to being in such a vast, peaceful space alone. I was quite relieved every time we saw other people, even more so when we finally left and headed back out into the sunshine. I think the next time we go, we’ll go with our friends, just to up the fun factor, and oh, so I won’t have that unwarranted feeling of isolation too.
She said she was going to write a book with one hundred ninety pages and this would be the start of it. She said maybe she would become a writer after that. In her seven-and-a-half years of existence, I’ve never known her to be a writer. Often, getting her to write is like getting a cat into the bath. I’m not holding my breath on this one. Big thoughts, big idealistic dreams.
It was the little plastic chair at the library. The one with the cool raised swirly pattern on the back. The one that’s just the perfect size for a child’s bottom, while adults look plain ridiculous in them. But that’s besides the point. Perhaps she’s sat in them way too many times before and sitting is just so passé and boring, so she decided to rock back and forth in them.
It’s fun. I know this because I used to do this when I was in primary school, tipping my chair back on its back legs, my fingers gripping my rusty desk for support. My mother used to warn me against doing so, telling me I could go blind if I hit the back of my head on the desk behind me. I laughed it off, because as a child who knew little about biology, that just seems absurd (your eyes are on the front, not the back!). However, as someone who minored in biology, I now know that visual cortex is back there, so duh. But I digress.
Raspberry learnt the hard way that rocking on bendy plastic chair legs is not a good idea. Somehow, unsurprisingly, they gave out and sent her forehead right into the table (also plastic). When I returned from getting groceries, I found Lucas, toting Ares, approaching with a band-aid in hand, a promise to explain later, and a seemingly nonplussed librarian in tow. The librarian, who watched patiently as Lucas stuck the band-aid on the gash, had Raspberry recount the details of how she acquired her injury, as he had to write it up.
She was left with a bruised, swollen forehead that, within hours, became a badge of pride, because she thought it made her look terrifying. A week-and-a-half on, the bump is still has tinges of yellow and purple and not as goose egg-ish as it was before and it’s become an afterthought, if at all.
There’s unfortunately no good backstory to his scar. They fought and the claws came out. I didn’t see what happened and was only met with his inconsolable pain cries. I suppose if the top of his head wasn’t so barren, his luscious locks would’ve absorbed most of the impact and he would’ve been spared a giant scratch. It’s too bad my kids are genetically predisposed to having little hair in their early days. Oh well.
Hooray for sunny beach days with friends! Hooray for scintillating adult conversation, children playing in the water with reckless abandon, teeny tiny babies with wide-eyed pensive looks (well, just one baby), and not-so-minuscule babies wanting to play in the water and wet sand but freaking out over enormous bathing suit bottoms! Hooray for jaffa cake ice-cream and the little person having his first bite of proper ice-cream and loving it so much that I was secretly getting protective over my share of it (it’s mine, after all)! And at the end of it all, even the tiniest hooray for very tired, non-napping child who wanted to walk everywhere.
They get on each other’s nerves. She gets into his personal space (deliberately or otherwise) and he shrieks, “AHHHH!” and pushes her away. I imagine that if he could speak, he’d have some choice words for her. When he gets tired, his tendency to bite rears its ugly head and he goes for her ankles, because she likes sitting on the couch with her feet up. I can tell you from experience that his eight-and-a-half teeth can leave some indelible marks. She asks, “Ares, can I have that?” and grabs a toy out of his hands without waiting for his answer. He’s like chopped liver. He sees that her head’s right next to him and takes that as an invitation to grab her glasses, because obviously something protrouding from your face is just screaming to be yanked off. And so it goes.
This morning, before I’d even peeled my heavy eyelids open, they were already at it. He wanted the book about London that she was reading. She sternly snapped no, and then started howling at him as he turned his attention to opening drawers instead. There’s only so much ignoring and trying to sleep you can do, when there’s all this drama and potential hand-to-hand combat happening right beside you. I had no choice but to get out of bed, much to my displeasure. And they just went on and on and on like this for the next two hours, until Lucas and I were threatening to douse Raspberry with an unhealthy dose of Rescue Remedy and we were beyond ready to put them on the curb with a “for sale” sign (except no one really does things like that here with their inanimate objects).
They’re not usually this bad. Like all things, the sibling rivalry has ebbs and flows. The first few times it happened, I was just plain confused. There’s a six year gap between them. How… why in the world are they fighting?! If there was just two or three years between them, it’d be completely understandable, even expected, that they were butting heads. But seriously, six years! “You don’t even have the same interests,” I thought to myself (except that now, they actually do), thinking that the root of siblings fighting lay in both kids wanting the same things. But of course, I’m just completely naive and it’s more complex than that. They drive each other batty, just because.
They have occasional sweet moments when they play together. Like when we were at the garden at British Library and they looked at ants together. Or yesterday during Ares’ bath, when Ares was [mostly] pretending to drink the surprisingly particle-ridden bathwater and she would gleefully yelp, “Don’t drink the water!” and he’d laugh uncontrollably. Often, Ares will grab a chapter or adult book and plant himself right next to Raspberry as she reads on the couch, personal space be damned (he’s okay with shrinking the size of his personal space when he’s the one controlling it). It’s cute when they get along and when Raspberry’s not vocalizing her wishes to get rid of Ares (the suggestion last week was to “put Ares in a baby-only zone and someone else can take care of him” and then it escalated into suggesting murder — true story).
Please let me wake up tomorrow morning with pleasant kids, or at least tolerable ones. Let’s hope they got all that squabbling and bickering out of their system today (seriously, after going at it all morning, they’d better be done with it). If it continues, I think I’m just going to make myself some hot chocolate and put some headphones on and direct my attention to the black hole that is the Internet. It’s better than having my head explode.