- Cullman, Alabama

September 8, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Sweater weather

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— I love this weather! It’s what my mother used to call “sweater weather." It’s when the days start to get a little shorter, the sun isn’t quite so hot, fall flowers are blooming in gardens up and down the streets and brightly colored mums go on sale at garden centers. It’s when you begin to see leaves changing colors and some energetic people are already decorating with pumpkins and straw bales.

It’s when football is the hottest topic in town and the time of year when women start putting away their summer sandals and begin to pull out their fall wardrobe, including sweaters.

Sometimes the sweaters are only tossed in the backseat of a vehicle, “just in case” because after dark it gets chilly. Frequently, you’ll see school children dragging them along reluctantly in the afternoons when the sun is still hot, but they probably felt good that morning on the way to school when there was a little nip in the air.

Sweater weather also brings with it the craving for rich stews, soups and big bowls of homemade chili. It’s a tradition in some families that on the first really cool day, the menu changes from salads and hamburgers to chicken and dumplings and roasts of beef with rich gravy and fork tender vegetables, or anything that can be cooked in a big pot, left to simmer on the stove most of the day.

It’s when the first fire of the year will be lit, making our homes cozy and warm. It’s when teenagers start gathering around bonfires, roasting marshmallows and planning hayrides.

It’s what one of my daughter’s high school friends called the “season for rolling yards”. Once when she was little, Dominique saw hundreds of feet of white tissue paper blowing from some tree limbs and exclaimed, “Look, mom! They’ve already started decorating for Halloween!”

Sweater weather calls for warm apple cider and hot chocolate instead of lemonade or iced tea. It’s when the fair comes to town and everyone gets excited about the rides, candied apples, and spun-sugar cotton candy.

I have drawers full of sweaters. I have a couple of my mother’s just as keepsakes. When I start bringing out my fall clothes I always run across them. They are comforting in a special way that only someone sentimental about things like sweaters can understand.

Most of my sweaters have a history. Some are accessorized with that beautiful beading that was popular awhile back, or have exquisitely embroidered scenes on them. My daughters keep telling me that those are out of style, but Mother always said that everything comes back in vogue, so I’m hanging onto my favorites, just waiting for their turn to come back around — especially the Christmas ones!

It’s almost like a family reunion when the day arrives for bringing them out of the storage closet or the cedar chest where they’ve been since last spring. Each one has some kind of memory attached. The day I bought this one was when I was pregnant with my youngest, or worn to lunch the last time Mother and I had an outing. Some were gifts from people who know how I love sweaters. A couple of them represent some time in my life when I needed their comfort.

There is a lot more involved with a sweater than just the utilitarian business of keeping warm. Some guys even recognize this sentiment, and most will have a letter sweater stashed away somewhere. When they see it they smile at the memories of the baseball diamond, basketball court, or football field where they spent some of the best times of their lives.

Hand-knitted sweaters hold even more memories. Made by someone who loved you enough to spend all the time it takes to make a sweater, it is a real treasure if you have one of these.

So, this year when you are shopping for a new sweater, take into account that you might be wearing it for a long, long time. It might become like part of your history, a beautiful reminder of fall nights under brilliant stars, of homecomings and warm hugs, of cuddling up next to someone special on the bleachers as your watch your team racking up points.

Yes, there is a lot more to a sweater than meets the eye, so choose wisely.

Enjoy fall, Y’all!