Lois Langston, 69, has a weird obsession. It rears itself year round, and in particular, during Christmas.
“You call that a fetish? Sweaters?” she asked. “I have them for every holiday.”
Langston, a driver with security at Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community in North Raleigh, has spent her nine years on staff bringing good cheer to the residents of the facility. At last count, she has 100 sweaters, with themes ranging from Valentine’s Day to Easter and even the festive greens of St. Patrick. Twenty-five of the 100 are Christmas sweaters, including the one she wore when I met with her Tuesday – a lime green button up with bearded Santas adorning both sides.
Langston has spent more than 25 years collecting sweaters. It all began when she saw one decorated in candy canes at 42.
“I just saw one, and I just loved it,” she said. “I loved the brightness. I loved the color.”
Her hobby was a solitary affair until she began working at Springmoor about nine years ago. Initially, she worked as a receptionist on the weekends. Her sweaters quickly became the stuff of resident gossip.
“They love them,” Langston said. “They come up to the counter and say, ‘What is it you have on today?’ ”
As with all obsessions, she has her detractors.
“My children might kill me,” she said.
But she is winning over her children’s children. Her granddaughter called her one day from school and announced that they were having an ugly sweater contest. She wanted to know whether Langston might have a few she could borrow. Langston took four over to her granddaughter, though she said it will be up to the young girl to decide whether they are “ugly” or not.
‘Sweaters don’t define me’
Langston wasn’t always a sweater collector. In fact, she makes it a point to say that her obsession shouldn’t be her identifying characteristic.
“Sweaters don’t define me,” she said. “I’m a wife, and a mother, and a grandmother,” and even more things besides.
A lifelong North Carolina resident for one. She was born and raised in Smithfield and spent much of her youth visiting the Raleigh area before it became the urban center it is today. One of the biggest changes is the diversity of people and last names that have moved into the area.
“When I was growing up, you were a Jones, a Smith or a Tart,” she said.
Langston credits the Research Triangle Park with building up the city. It brought an influx of people, and with them came big, beautiful homes, bigger shopping centers, malls and more jobs.
“It’s created many more opportunities for our young people,” she said.
Hoping for a yard sale
Langston started working at Springmoor when her sister-in-law got her a job there, and she’s quickly become a fixture in the retirement community. I asked her if she ever planned to give any of her sweaters away to the residents there.
“I have so many favorites here, I don’t know who I would give them to,” she said.
But the interest is there.
“Everybody always asks when I’m going to have a yard sale,” she said.
In the meantime, she continues spreading Christmas, and other holiday, cheer around the year. She only sheds the sweaters when the temperature reaches the high 90s or low 100s.
So, if you ever visit the Springmoor community, even in the depths of summer, you may see Langston’s pleasant smile and cheery sweaters decking the halls.
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at email@example.com.