The Magic of the Traveling Sweatshirt

My mom and my uncle both attended Longwood (back when it was a college and not a university). This means that two of my grandmother’s three children were attending the same school, and she consequently felt compelled to get some form of Longwood merchandise to show her support. She chose a sweatshirt.

My mom, Tamara Smith Waldo ’90, also purchased a Longwood sweatshirt that she wore for a long time—even years after she graduated. Sadly, my mom’s sweatshirt didn’t survive to the present day. But my grandmother, Donna Carr, decided to hang onto hers through all of the changes and phases of her life after my mom and uncle graduated. And this is where my story begins.

Heather Waldo ’22 (center) with her grandmother, Donna Carr (right), who purchased the sweatshirt 30 years ago, and her mom, Tamara Smith Waldo, who graduated in 1990

Recently my grandmother was looking through some things in her cedar chest, and she came across the sweatshirt she had purchased so many years earlier. Once she found it, she texted a picture of it to my mom and me, saying, “Look what I found!” My mom couldn’t believe she had kept the sweatshirt for so long and how good it still looked.

The sweatshirt is still white with vibrant colors of yellow and blue. You would never think that it is nearly 30 years old.

As soon as I saw the photo, I immediately asked if I could have the sweatshirt. I loved how retro it looked and how it is completely different from any Longwood apparel you can buy now. So my grandmother washed it and gave it to me the next time she came to visit. Since then, I have worn the sweatshirt multiple times, and people often comment on it. One of my friends even asked me if I had gotten it at Pairet’s, a store on Main Street that sells Longwood apparel. When I told her it was actually my grandmother’s from 30 years ago, she thought that was pretty cool.

That same day, a lady in the dining hall also commented on it. She said, “Does that say Longwood College?” I looked down at it, laughed a little, then replied, “Yes, it does. It was my grandmother’s.” She went on to say how much she loved my sweatshirt and how it reminded her of her Longwood experience. (She had also attended Longwood when it was still a college.)

To me, the sweatshirt was something I thought looked unique, and I liked the retro style. Of course, it’s also special to me because it belonged to my grandmother. But to the lady in the dining hall, the sweatshirt was a reminder of a time when all of life’s possibilities lay before her. She began to smile and reminisce about her college days.

It’s fascinating how the same object can evoke such different feelings and memories for different people. The sweatshirt took on a new meaning for me that day. I resolved to take care of it and keep up with it, just as my grandmother had. One day I’ll pass the sweatshirt—and its history—on to someone in the next generation of our family. I hope that someone will also be a freshman at Longwood.