The Cast: My dad’s coat (old and suede, new and suede), Myself (young, and older).
If you’ve ever had someone dear to you go away—they move to another state, the two of you breakup, there’s a death, or whatever reason—more often than not, they leave behind a keepsake. Hopefully, it is a positive experience, and what they have left behind brings you peace and comfort. I have a thing like that. It’s my dad’s suede jacket.
My dad had two brown, suede jackets. His first one, I never saw him wear. That doesn’t mean he didn’t, I just have zero recollection of it. There was solid evidence that he did wear it, and often. There were worn areas around the bottom and about the cuffs. Additionally, my dad kept a pair of black leather gloves in its’ pockets. I know this because I found them when I was investigating the jacket as it hung in our coat closet (I had to know more about that jacket!). Because I never saw him wear it! (that I can remember)
At any rate, I became fascinated with that suede jacket. Now, I didn’t know what suede was (I was a child, about five or six years old), but I did know that it was leather. And leather jackets are what cool guys wear. So, by default, that meant that my dad must be cool. All that being said, whenever I opened the closet door and looked at that jacket all I saw was the potential for a gorilla suit.
The arms were longer than the chest (like gorillas have really long arms and really short legs—I’ve seen the cartoons), and so if I could just attach the gloves to the ends of the sleeves, then I could have gorilla hands! Perfect! Now I just needed my dad’s go-ahead to play with his leather jacket. My dad was a nice guy, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Yup, my dad told me ‘no’. Well, that just meant that I needed to rethink my approach and ask again, along with providing an explanation. Oooor, I could just simply ask if I could try it on.
“Alright. Just be very careful.”
YES!!! I clearly recall standing there, in our front room. My dad’s big brown jacket draped about me, trying to zip it up—which was almost impossible as my hand didn’t even reach where my dad’s elbows would have. And the best part was that the jacket was so big, that if I crouched down and tucked my knees up against my chest, then attached the gloves the sleeves… I was a gorilla!
Yes, I was a little gorilla, but I was still a gorilla! However, as soon as I began to move, the gloves fell off. Well, that ruined the fun. Bu-ut, if I put them on my feet… Then I could have gorilla feet! YES!!! This was now even better.
So, there I was, my six-year-old self, waddling about my front room, knees to chest, my father’s big suede jacket wrapped about my tiny frame, his black leather gloves set on my feet like a pair of shoes so that they could be my ape-like appendages, my arms flapping about so that ends of sleeves would whip about and hit my chest, all the while I was making gorilla-like grunting noises. That’s, of course, when my father decided to enter the room.
“So you just wanted to try it on, huh?”
Oops. I explained to him that I was being careful and just wanted to play. That seemed to help.
When I first told this story to my oldest daughter she responded with, “OHH, weren’t you just adorable!” Yes. Yes, I was.
As a matter of fact I was so adorable that if I showed up to a party, that party’s ‘WOW’ factor went up 500%. My mother used to rent me out for 75¢ an hour. One summer I almost earned enough money to buy a car, but I spent it all on candy. Good times, bad belly ache.
Yeah, so anyway, I’m guessing that I was just too adorable to be too upset at. My father simply looked at me, smiled and said, “Just be careful, alright.”
He let me pretend ‘gorilla’ only a handful of times. He really didn’t like me using his coat. But I cherished every moment that he let me.
This last Christmas, my mother sent some old photos. Someo photos I’ve never seen, and some I had forgotten about. In that stack of photos was one of me and my sisters walking about the mountains, looking for a Christmas tree. In that photo, I am wearing my dad’s old suede jacket (my gorilla costume). I’m about 12 in that picture.
Eventually, that coat went away and was replaced (years later) with another one. My dad—for reasons I’ve never known—really, really loved his suede jacket(s).
Years later still, after my dad passed away, my mother gave me my dad’s brown, suede leather jacket. Now, on the days when I leave the house and I want to spend some time with my dad, I wear the coat. It’s like getting to have him with me, and getting hugged by him one more time. I even have my own pair of black leather gloves.