All In One
Most places have no weather. They have atmospheric events – like heat waves and cold snaps, even monsoons and hurricanes. But not real weather; the kind that changes minute by minute – making every hour a canvas for new paintings with sunshine and cumulus clouds, thunderstorms, wind, sleet, snow; extreme humidity with, clothes-sticking, suffering, heat wave weather or fingers freezing, start the car and run back into the house as fast as you can cold.
In New England we have the real thing, and dressing correctly is a science. In fact, we’ve become Professional Dressers. It’s an acquired skill with tough lessons along the way, like shivering in a too-thin jacket on a fall outing or working and playing with wet, frozen feet.
A Southern Californian’s morning decision is long sleeves or short.
But for us, dressing is serious business, requiring tools and savvy. Moms’ lessons include “Don’t forget your hat,” and “Wear layers. You can always take something off.”
Some pieces are easy. A utility shoe will usually suffice, and Wrangler jeans go year round with not much washing. They look better used.
It’s the top that’s tricky. What’s evolved is the fleece; an all purpose, reliable – suits – all remedy; the one garment to include with any trip or outing. If clothes are tools, the fleece is the New England all in one wrench.
My own favorite is a tattered, slightly oversized oldie. Slipped on like a second skin, it completes multiple shirt layers or is comfortable as solo covering; snug and warm enough if the temperature drops or easy to shed and toss in the back seat if the day turns hot. The connecting front pockets provide a compartment for various stuff, like tools and snacks, and coins and papers, still ready to warm the coldest hands. The dark blue goes with all my pants.
The fabric might be the best part; slipping it on is like remembering a friend. Against the neck and cheek, it just feels right; like a piece of cozy bed blanket or a fluffy bath towel right out of the dryer, perfect to wrap a shivering child at the beach when the sun gets low.
Folded in a closet, or hanging on a garage nail, a fleece can live for years, ever ready without a wrinkle, a perfect hand me down for the next sibling or generation. Rips or wear holes denote rank like soldier’s stripes, adding character and evidence of games played, roads traveled and adventures had. And dirty is fine – a fleece isn’t supposed to be too new and nice. It’s a tool, after all.
The fleece is a heritage, part of our New England culture, helping define and identify us – marking our tribe as clearly as a shoulder patch or Red Sox cap.
It’s part of us, just like our weather.