A Plaid Jacket

Someone very smart once told me that to get people to be interested in what I'm doing here with this blog, I have to be more vulnerable, because that's when the best of me comes out onto paper. While I know this may be true to some extent, it takes a little more time for me to be comfortable opening up on such a public platform for a few reasons. First, why should people care to read about the things that may make me look weak? Second, I don't want to seem as if I'm complaining about my life in any way and I don't want people reading to feel sorry for me. I haven't had a terrible life though some not so great things have happened. Being empathetic towards me is one thing, I don't mind if you can understand where I'm coming from and connect with the writing on that level, but I've never been one to open up in search of pity, and I don't want to start now. With all that taken into consideration, I couldn't help but dwell on everything going through my head today and I had this compulsion to write about it.


About two weeks ago, we celebrated my sister Jessica's 21st birthday. I got to my grandma's pretty early compared to everyone else, so I was there when my brother walked through the door with his boyfriend. He was wearing a faded green/blue/grey plaid jacket that had a grey hood attached to it. Similar to this one I found on google:


Immediately, I felt a wave of nostalgia sweep over me. When I was younger, my dad had a jacket that was very similar. If I'm not mistaken, both my mom and dad had one, or they shared one. Either way, seeing Brian wearing that jacket made me homesick. The craziest part is that I was homesick for something I haven't had since I was in elementary school. And I didn't even realize it until a few days ago.



This past Saturday (Nov 9th), I went shopping for a coat. Illinois has this funny way of hitting you in the face with winter before you have to chance to grab your sweater for fall. I knew I needed some sort of jacket. The cardigans I have been wearing have worked well thus far, but they weren't going to be able to keep up with the bitterness of November and beyond. So off I went. I started at the Walmart in Kankakee. I was told there was a decent selection of jackets for a decent price. I was also informed that they had the plaid jackets. While that was mostly true, I came away empty handed. I spent the next three hours going from one store to the next, only to find that the next four stores I would go to either didn't have anything in my size, or were way out of my price range. In a last ditch effort I went to the Bourbonnais Walmart. I was originally told that they didn't have much in selection available in the size I was looking for. At this point though, I had exhausted my other options and they were close by so I didn't go super out of my way to get there. Low and behold, I finally found something that I liked, and was available in my size for a decent price. It was a little frustrating that it was at the Walmart I should have gone to the entire time, but hindsight is 20/20.


The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wasn't just the size or price range I was looking for. I had set a specific goal. I wanted to have a plaid jacket of my own. While looking, I couldn't figure out why I wanted it but I did. So a couple of the places I went to probably had jackets that would have been acceptable, but I craved a plaid jacket. I needed my own piece of constant nostalgia. When I first saw the jacket on my brother, I couldn't help but think of my dad. It doesn't truly matter if my memory deceives me and my mom was the one with it, I still thought of him. I couldn't help but think about him, and the winters from when I recall seeing it. One particular image comes to mind.


When I was in fourth and fifth grade, we lived in Stillwater, Minnesota. We lived in a two story townhouse. There were eight to ten townhomes connected together on each side of the small road that wasn't really its own road but was just a bit too long to truly be a cul de sac. Just a short walk down the road there was a park. It sat in a very small valley, and if you followed the side walk just past the park you had a shorter walk to get to the top of the hill. One weekend, when there was enough snow on the ground, we took a walk to the park and went sledding down said hill. It was the kind of sledding that you see in movies. There was so much snow on the ground that the sleds didn't reveal the earth beneath the it. The air was cold enough to make your nose pink but we weren't uncomfortable being outside for so long. We were still young enough that we could easily fit two of us onto the tubes that we used, so we took turns sledding down the hill and then running back up. Our laughter bounced off the hill about as often as our bodies bounced out of the sleds.


I have a few memories like that to look back on. Ones where I can remember not only what we did but also the pure elation we felt. There are not as many memories like that as I wish there were. Earlier in this post I mentioned that I was homesick for something that I hadn't had in a long time. I started writing this post two days ago, and as much as I have thought about what I am missing, it's incredibly hard to articulate it. How can you be homesick for a home that doesn't exist anymore? If the next few sentences seem to be a little messy, I apologize but it's just how I'm processing everything right now.


I miss is my dad. And not because he passed away. Not because he moved far away. He only lives a short half hour drive out. And not because we don't talk. I mean, we don't talk much but that's not what I miss. What I think I'm homesick for is the full family unit, father figure and all. I'm miss the man I know my dad could be, in alternate timeline. I miss the concept of what he could have been if anything during my childhood had gone differently. I miss the relationship my parents have in a parallel universe. I bought the plaid jacket because it was the jacket I thought he would wear, and I used it in place of the embrace I ache for.


I'm not trying to lay blame here, truly. There is too much that happened when I was a kid, and even more that I don't even know about, to try and place blame and start a family feud over a blog. When my parents split up, I knew it was the right thing, for the best, etc, and I was old enough to know that none of it was my fault. I know everything happens for a reason and there's a plan for everything, but that doesn't change that sometimes, life makes you feel shitty. Sometimes you really just wish you had the family from the hallmark movie. Sometimes you see your brother in a jacket and it makes you think about your dad and then you think about what your life could have been like. You think about what your family could have been like.


When I saw my brother in that jacket, I didn't think about all of this all at once, but over the course of the last two weeks, I have thought about everything. I have sat at the bottom of a well, writing all the 'what if's' on the wall as the sun marked the passage of time above me. That plaid jacket was the rope I used to pull myself out. Having it doesn't give me the sense that my family is perfect or make the past go away, but when I put it on these past couple days, I felt like it could be possible to construct a different future out of the what if's running through my mind. In all honesty, I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone but me. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you take anything away from this, know that it's okay to think about the 'what if's' of life as long as you don't make your home there. And sometimes a plaid jacket helps life be a little less shitty, at least for me.

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