I have a lovely old cardigan, donated to me by a friend. He said at the time that he was lending it to me, but his intentions - or my perception of them - changed as the years went by.
The cardigan had previously belonged to my friend’s father, a Church of England priest, whose understanding of the cardigan’s ownership was that he himself had only given it to his son on a temporary basis, and was quite surprised to see my wearing it on a visit to his house.
“Why are you wearing my cardigan?” he asked, not altogether unreasonably, given the circumstances.
“Oh, Keith,” his wife (my friend’s mother) said (my friend’s father’s name is Keith), “don’t you remember that that cardigan was your father’s, and you said that you were only borrowing it from him!”
So I own a cardigan that was previously owned by three generations of one family (two of which were priests). It’s a lovely beige thing, with brown stripes and a really tall collar that keeps out the breeze when you put it up.
If my friend and his wife ever have a son, I think I’ll have to go back and present the cardigan to the boy. “Here,” I’ll say, “this was your father’s. It was passed down from his father - your grandfather - before him. And your grandfather received it from his father, your great-grandfather. Your father gave this to me for safe keeping. He would have wanted you to have it.”
“Why are you talking about my Dad as if he was dead?” the young man will probably ask. “He’s over there, by the fireplace.”
“Ssh,” I’ll say, “you have the cardigan, you’re the man of the house now. You and your cardigan will have to be strong.”
“But my Dad isn’t dead.”
“And you’ll have to look after your mother, too.”
Like I said, lovely cardigan.