I looked up for an instant on my morning commute, attempting to focus on the stream of sunlight that played around my fellow subway riders as the door closed. As my eyes returned to the book I held in my hand, I caught sight of the young man’s purple Marmot jacket. It was of middle weight, ideal for whatever this weather is we’re having at present: not winter, not spring.
A jacket. Just a jacket.
I grew up in the class below working class on a horse farm in Kentucky (whatever that is; let’s just call it poor). We were the workers, my grandparents, uncles, and, in the summers between school, me. We worked for people who were decidedly not working class. When you move in the world of competitive show hunters and jumpers, money–lots of money–is a given. I grew up watching. I grew up envying. I grew up knowing I was a worker.
I grew up wanting some marker of a whiff of that life.
Just a whiff.
Sometimes, my uncle would bring home a gift, or a cast0ff from the people we worked for or people he knew. One day, he brought home a jacket. It was a CB jacket, a red ski jacket intersected with the most perfect strip of navy.
I think I nearly cried that day because someone had given it to him. That jacket represented light years between the life I was living and all sorts of aspirations. He didn’t ascribe any of those same markers to it, certainly. To him, it was just that: a jacket that he threw over the foot of his bed and piled another half dozen items on top without a second thought.
I might have snuck upstairs and squeezed myself into that jacket. Probably looked at myself in the mirror, zipped and unzipped the YK zipper slowly as I imagined all the parts of life I was sure accompanied wearing such an item. I most likely slunk back down the stairs, each step on my descent a reminder of a life I was simply not to live.
And my life went on. I left the farm. Went to a college where CB jackets and ski slopes were birthright. Learned, though, that I could have my own dreams. Figured out, certainly, what kind of life I could have that wasn’t driven by longing for a life I’d never be able to lead while growing into the life I live now and being quite proud of that life.
Then, today, that reminder. Of that life. Not even the same jacket, but expensive, just the same. A twinge that–however minuscule–evoked an immediate picture of that same CB jacket in my mind.
But now, today, I know: I am not that jacket.
I am not that jacket.