The Red Hoodie Redux

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt asks us to write about our favorite article of clothing for twenty minutes. I may revisit that idea at some point this month; however, my first thought was a post I wrote for Off the Deep End, published January 25, 2012. I know, I know, recycling isn’t the name of the game, but apparently it’s National BFF Day, and my bestie posted a picture of us from the era of the red hoodie, and I’m nostalgia-ing. I’m almost certain there will be some formatting issues, as I copy/pastaed and it looks a little odd on my iPhone, but it’s a slow night at work. I had to do something, you know? 


 Twenty years ago, give or take a few days, something very special came into my life. It was…dun dun dun…the red hoodie! It was a red hooded sweatshirt with a kangaroo pocket and ‘Venezia’ emblazoned in white across the front. This magical item of clothing joined me after one glorious school clothes shopping trip. From the first moment, we were inseparable.

This was a couple of years before baja hoodies came into their own at my high school, so I was not exactly stylish, but I was visible. Nobody else had a bright red hoodie, and I was one of the tallest girls in school. I wore it in winter. I wore it in summer. I wore it in spring and fall. I slept in the darn thing sometimes. I loved that hoodie.

The red hoodie was also well traveled. It went on the Dumbo ride at Disney World with my little brother. It went to Michigan to visit my dad, and it went to Colorado when he moved there. Colorado was where we had a little mishap with some green paint, and from then on, my red hoodie had a bit of green decoration on the hem in the back and on the pocket in the front.

But we kept on trucking.

When I started taking road trips to meet my Internet friends in my late teens and early twenties, my red hoodie was a staple. We went to Virginia, Missouri, and California. We spent weeks in Yellowknife and Edmonton. We clocked a lot of hours together.

The red hoodie meant comfort to me. It was warm and cozy and familiar. If I was sad or lonely, I could throw on the red hoodie and curl up with a book or a movie or a bowl of ice cream and just feel better.

As I got older, of course my style changed, but the red hoodie was always there. Probably not in my closet, but usually in a laundry basket or thrown over the arm of the couch.

I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my life, but the red hoodie stayed the same. A little more faded, the logo a little more cracked, maybe a little more threadbare, but always there.

And then it was time to say goodbye.

Every year I go through my wardrobe two or three times, purging the things I no longer wear and making a trip to the donation bin. Last year, the red hoodie and I took our last trip together. It was time. I was finally ready to say goodbye to the life I’d led for so long, and say hello to my new life. In a way, saying goodbye to the red hoodie was like saying goodbye to frivolous childhood, and greeting serious business adulthood, with all the trials and tribulations that entails.

I like to think that somewhere, someone else is out having grand adventures in the red hoodie. Maybe it’s keeping somebody warm tonight. Maybe it’s on the back of somebody’s couch, waiting to welcome them home.

Have you ever had an item of clothing that came to mean way more to you than any other? Maybe something that came to represent everything that made you you? Do you still have it? Tell me about it!

The best part is that I missed that hoodie for years, off and on; sometimes piercingly, sometimes briefly, sometimes far too deeply. But I don’t anymore. It isn’t simply not missing the hoodie; it’s more an emotional outgrowing of a security blanket. And I like that feeling. It feels happy. It feels warm and cozy and, well, secure.

Curbside Reclamation and Dumpster Diving

Following Justine’s post on FreeCycleand jjiraffe’s post on thrifting and consignment, I have another addition: dumpster diving.

Ian and I have been dumpster diving and ‘trash digging’ for years. What we call ‘trash digging’ doesn’t really involve much digging, just driving around neighborhoods the night before trash pickup to see what we can see.

He wanted me to write a list of what we’ve scavenged, but as I considered, I came to realize how little we’ve actually spent over the past seven years on furnishings, decorations, and entertainment. We bought our mattress set new, and probably spent more on that and our television than everything else put together. That’s as it should be, right? A comfy bed is priceless, even more so when you spend a lot of time lying awake in it.

Our dishwasher and entertainment center were freecycled, Abby’s toddler bed was consignment, and our couch, love seat, and coffee table were Craigslist. And the washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, and dresser that came free from friends or family.

Wow, I’m impressed with us. Sorry, got a little distracted.

Anyway, we dumpster dive.

Our favorite places to go are Michael’s, Kmart, and Dollar Tree. We have had a lot of new development recently, but almost all of those shopping centers have compactors. Compactors make us sad.

Michael’s is where we get all my frames, most of which are only thrown out because the glass is broken. There’s the occasional crafty stuff or mat leftovers as well. Their dumpster always looks so happy and sparkly from all the ground glass on the surrounding pavement. Closed toe shoes are a good idea.

Kmart is next door to Michael’s, so they always get hit as a pair. Ian once came home with two large garbage bags full of single socks. Those took hours to sort and match, but the end result is we may never need to purchase socks again. Our kitchen is Halloween-themed year round, from a haul of hand towels and potholders a few years ago.

The thing about Kmart that I hate is the destruction. They slice up their display models of carseats and strollers, that could easily have been donated to people who need them. It’s so frustrating to see that. When we find usable items that we don’t need or want, if we don’t know someone who does, we clean it up and take it to a donation site.

And Dollar Tree. They just don’t care. If one package is damaged in a case, the whole case is thrown away. We’ve gotten shampoo, dishwasher detergent, cat litter, all because nobody felt like cleaning up the undamaged containers. And once, a dead beaver. We did not salvage him. That discovery remains a mystery.

But my personal favorite is the Asian grocery. I don’t know how many fruits, vegetables, and labels I’ve googled to find out just what exactly is this weird thing. We haven’t been there in a long time, though.

There are some guidelines we follow. First of all, make sure dumpster diving is legal in your area. In Louisiana, once you throw something out, it’s fair game. A cop once stopped to see what we were doing and had to google to find that out for herself. Obey private property signs.

Also very important, but something that would seem to be common sense is to never climb into a dumpster alone. I’m talking to you, Ian! He almost got stuck once getting me a pair of jeans because the only other thing in there was cardboard, and not much of it. Fortunately, I was there, and he got out okay anyway. If you are climbing in, make sure you don’t lose your shoes.

You don’t have to climb in. A grabber, or even a cane or broomstick, is usually all you need to shift things around and protect your fingers.

Food? I’ll eat dumpster food. All of our grocery stores compact, but I’ve heard good things about Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Wash your produce and leave anything canned or bottled if the seal has been compromised, of course. Shelf stable items that are individually wrapped inside a larger container are ubiquitous, and find homes in our pantry.

What do you think?