Now Or Never

My mom gave me a vintage fleece and a sense of adventure

My mom's hot pink Patagonia fleece has helped me feel connected to my mom - and our shared sense of adventure - since the pandemic started.

Her bright pink sweater has travelled the world for more than 30 years

The photo perched on the shelf in my parents home (left) and me, in Jasper, Alta. where I used to live (right). (Supplied by Emily Rendell-Watson)

For as long as I can remember, there's been a photo of my parents on top of Gros Morne Mountain sitting on a shelf in the den of my childhood home.

My mom, Carol Rendell, sports a hot pink Patagonia fleece from the 1980s, the kind they don't make anymore — extra thick and cozy. I've coveted that fleece since I was a young girl.

The fleece had a full life before I arrived in the mid-nineties. My mom wore it to ascend peaks in the Canadian Rockies, to lead Outward Bound trips, and to travel throughout Asia. She even wore it while working as one of the only female scientists with the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic.

My mom, Carol Rendell, on the ferry from Prince Edward Island to Îles de la Madeleine. (Supplied by Carol Rendell)

To this day, it smells like nights spent by a campfire. Smoke that stings your lungs and settles into your clothes is a smell that tends to linger. Tiny burn marks from stray sparks flying off a crackling blaze mark a few spots on the arms — memories of time spent with family and friends by mountain lakes or in the back country. 

My mom never explicitly gave me the fleece, but I borrowed it when I headed off to work in Jasper, Alta. as a young adult. It never found its way back into her closet. Every once in a while she'll tease me about wanting it back so she can "stay warm when she's old," and it's a joke that always makes me smile. 

A piece of her

Now, I wear the fleece regularly on my own adventures. It's been with me on countless back country trips, ski touring, canoe portages, sea kayaking.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been wearing it a lot. I've been foregoing outdoorsy trips in favour of staying home during the pandemic. My family is 3,500 kilometres away with no idea when we'll see each other next, so having a piece of my mom with me means more than ever. 

My mom and dad in Japan in April 1990. (Supplied by Carol Rendell)

In addition to it being a cool vintage piece, the fleece represents the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors my mom passed on to me. She taught me how to catch frogs, paddle a canoe and thread a fishing hook into a worm. She and my dad, Alexander Watson, are the reason I'm not afraid to get a bit of dirt under my nails, and why I approach outdoor activities with grit, humour and a sense of adventure. 

My mom often says nature is her "church" and taught me what it looks like to be a strong woman: building your own fires, setting up tents, or being the lone lady in a group of guys on a glacier. 

Like my mom, the outdoors is my favourite place to be. Whether it's listening to ocean waves crash against the shore, watching the sunrise from a mountain peak — or even running the trails of Mill Creek Ravine, here in Edmonton. My mom and I are the best versions of ourselves when we're in nature doing the things we love. 

In the tent with my dog, Abby, who is not usually so camera shy. (Emily Rendell-Watson)

Perhaps one day I'll pass on the Patagonia fleece to my own daughter, who I hope will have the opportunity to grow up loving and exploring nature like I did. For now, my rescue dog Abby wears the fleece when we're camping, snuggled up in our cozy two-person tent. 

I love the idea that a single piece of clothing can carry stories that span multiple generations. But at the end of the day, it's not really about the hot pink fleece: It's about the adventures my mom and I have been on around the world.

Because whether we're together or apart, our love for the outdoors is one and the same.

Me, Abby and the fleece! (Supplied by Emily Rendell-Watson)

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