Mr. Rogers’ Sweater


Published: October 8, 2009

My nana lived to be 93 years old.  During that time, she never lost a single possession. Rather, when something went missing, she would claim she had simply misplaced it and that it would turn up soon.

Jonathan Armenti /The Observer

She lived downstairs in my house when I was little.  She had her own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room, and no matter how many times my mother offered to clean for her, she refused.  She made my brother, sister and me pastina—a kind of macaroni you could eat with butter and cheese and milk.

Nana wore sweaters just like the ones Mr. Rogers wore on his TV show, and I told her that once and she thought it was funny. We used to watch it together, and on days when Mr. Rogers wore the type of button-down sweaters that resembled my nana’s, I would point them out to her and she’d smile.

When things were misplaced in Nana’s house, she never replaced them.  She just waited, until the thing that had been placed somewhere else was found again.  Sometimes she’d find the item minutes later, after having left it in a different room.  Other times she’d find it after months and months—and she would simply put it right back in its place as if it had never been gone.

This all made perfect sense to me, but my mother didn’t understand Nana’s method. They would always get into arguments about how it was time to replace the coffee filter attachment or the can opener or the salt shaker.  Once, my mother bought Nana a new fly swatter after hers had gone missing.  The next morning the swatter was on our kitchen table, with the tags still on it so that my mother could return it.  They fought a lot that day, until the two agreed to disagree and things went on being misplaced and then found again.

When my nana ended her 93 years, not much changed downstairs in my house.  The living room still has her carpet, her couches, and the butterfly wallpaper my mother complains about but will never take down.  It wasn’t until much later that I started finding things that had been misplaced.  I found the corner of a picture once.  In it were the faces of my nana and her husband, younger than I had ever seen them.  I framed the piece of picture, and made a place for it on the mantle.

I found the button the morning I was about to start high school.  It was in Nana’s old bedroom, behind a dresser where, it turned out, I had dropped one of my earrings. When I held the button, I remembered that it belonged on one of Nana’s Mr. Rogers’ sweaters.  She had stopped wearing this particular sweater once the button went missing, and had hung the sweater in her closet to await the button’s return.  It looked like the fancy marble on floors I had seen at a friend’s older sister’s bat mitzvah years ago.  That morning, I sewed the button onto my school uniform, where it stayed until I misplaced it.