Friendship and security showed up at our house in the form of an ugly orange hoodie this year. At first it was worn by a teenage boy. That boy became my daughter’s best friend.
It just happened, he just happened, and the ugly orange hoodie was along for the ride.
My daughter deals with severe anxiety. She also has an intense fear of abandonment due to early childhood trauma that occurred before her father and I were lucky enough to adopt her. Getting close to people is scary for her. Letting people in gives them the power to hurt her and she’s been through that way too many times.
The boy in the orange hoodie got close. She let him really see her – all of her, everything she fights so hard to keep below the surface. She was surprised he wanted to be her friend anyway.
She tried pushing him away, sometimes literally. He didn’t let her. She screamed she never wanted to see him again, and he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He was there for her, day after day, and the orange hoodie was too.
She sought out the ugly orange hoodie at school when she was anxious. The boy couldn’t follow her from class to class, but the hoodie could. She loved that it smelled like him. It comforted her and made her feel safe, because he made her feel comfortable and safe.
He started leaving the hoodie with her after they hung out. He’d wear it when they were together and then take it off and leave it in the car when they parted. He told her it was his way of saying, “I’ll be back.”
This went on for a couple weeks, and then she had a really bad day. She was in a pit of anxiety and depression. She had multiple panic attacks and lashed out at the boy in the orange hoodie.
She blew her snotty nose into the hoodie.
“That’s okay,” he said, “I’ve blown my nose on it, too.”
And at the end of the day he hugged her and told her he cares about her. Then he told her he wanted her to have the hoodie, his very favorite jacket. The jacket he’d been wearing daily all school year. He said he wanted her to know he’d always be there for her and that he wants to be in her life for a long time.
That ugly orange hoodie is filled with so much love (and snot.)
She’s worn it during exams and to scary doctor appointments. She puts it on when she’s tired or stressed. We went away for a weekend and she had him douse it with his cologne so it kept the comforting scent despite the distance.
She threw the cherished hoodie in the trash can outside recently when her anxiety picked up and manifested in anger. She wanted him to see her cast it out. She wanted to see if that was what it took for him to throw up his hands and say, “Enough! I’m done with you!”
Instead, he grabbed her and twirled her around our driveway in a dance with no music. Then I helped her rescue the ugly orange hoodie from the bottom of the smelly trash bin and put it right in the washing machine.
Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager with anxiety disorders and a traumatic history is super hard. Having a friend to count on makes everything easier, especially when that friend will wrap you up in his favorite hoodie so you feel safe and valued.
I don’t know what will happen to the ugly orange hoodie – love and snot can only hold fabric together for so long. I don’t know what will happen to its former owner, but I am oh-so-very-grateful for the comfort and security they both have given my daughter, snot and all.