Mary Swan-Bell
3 min readOct 21, 2021

One of my favorite Avett Brothers songs has a line that I love: “I wish I was a sweater, wrapped around your hips. And when it got too cold, into me you’d slip.” The next line is borderline voyeuristic, and the song is about love, not friendship, also the grammar taxes my editor side; still, it’s great. But that line made me think about some of my favorite things, and one of them is cardigans.

I have…several. My husband says I have a tiny problem buying them — and blankets — but what can I say? I like to be cozy. I wear cardigans year round with every outfit. Lightweight ones for summer, heavier ones for winter. All soft; don’t even look at me, wool. I keep one in my car. I kept one in my treatment bag. One slung over my purse or tied around my hips just in case. Being overly prepared isn’t my strongest character trait, but when a cold waiting room sends goosebumps prickling up on my arms, knowing I have that sweater feels lovely. When my kids were little, I kept assortments of snacks, toys, and books in my purse. When a long wait resulted in boredom or hunger, I’d unveil a surprise and revel in their delight. Planning for their potential boredom or hunger was one of a million ways I loved them. I’ve not always been great at taking care of myself, so being on the receiving end of that Look-What-I-Brought-For-You love felt scrumptious.

Like many women, I’m better at caring for others than myself. My husband, my kids, my mom, my friends. But subconsciously, part of that care was paying it forward. Hoping that someday if I needed it, I would have made enough deposits into an imaginary care account that someone would reciprocate. You can probably guess how that works out. Few live up to my expectations. Expectations and comparison are thieves of joy.

Through my behavior I was often modeling for my kids how to treat people, and I joke that their takeaway was, “Mom will do anything for us.” I’ve told my husband who sometimes finds me complicated: “I’ve been showing you for 30 years exactly how to love me; what is so hard to figure out?” Love languages are a handy tool: I don’t feel loved when you hug me; I feel loved when you clean the counter tops. Therefore, if you clean the counter tops, I will hug you.

Cancer and the pandemic not only drove me deeper into my shell, but they also made me reevaluate relationships. Here is what I…

Mary Swan-Bell

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•