Dear Miriam | The Case of the Left Behind Sweater

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Dear Miriam,

In late February 2020, I had a Shabbat dinner guest from out of town who left a very nice sweater at my house. We had planned to see each other again in March, when I would give it back. Well, those plans got canceled and never rescheduled, and though we talked about other ways to get it back, neither of us followed through.

Now it’s well more than a year later, the sweater has resurfaced in my apartment, our friendship kind of fizzled during the pandemic and I don’t know whether to bring it up again. What should I do with this sweater?


COVID Detritus

Dear Detritus,

Give it one more try. Email is perfectly reasonable. Text may be more effective. Say, “I can’t believe it’s August 2021, and I still have your sweater from that Shabbat dinner right before the shutdown. I’d like to get it back to you, but I’m doing a lot of clutter clearing right now, so if I don’t hear back from you in a week, I’m going to donate it. Hope you’re doing well!”

If that feels too harsh, tailor my words to a more specific sentiment you want to express. But the point needs to stand that an absence of a response is all the permission you need at this point. We’ve all held onto things from the before times, but this sweater isn’t even yours, and it’s just fine to let it go.

You could also mail it back without further communication, though I completely understand that the hassle of mailing a package may feel insurmountable, especially during this current surge in cases. You could also hang onto it until your paths do cross again, which may someday be a poetic kind of closure to this moment.

Ultimately, I get the sense that this sweater may stand for something more in your life at this point. Maybe it’s a reminder of how things were, a connection to a faded friendship, a passport to one of the final carefree Shabbat meals you hosted in total oblivion of what was to come. Wanting to hold onto all that makes perfect sense, as does feeling complicated about moving on.

There’s really no wrong answer about the sweater — though I do suspect you’ll feel better if it’s out of your house and back with its rightful owner. What matters more is how you process both the potentially overwhelming logistics of returning it and the even more overwhelming feelings of what we’ve held onto and what we’ve let go of during the past 17 months.

Be well,



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