Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jacket Required

You would think it's gross.

You would look at it, all dirty and smelling like beer and stained and worn. And then you would look at me, dressed some days in Ann Taylor, other days like a West Village artist, and you wouldn't get it.

And I wouldn't care.

It is my band jacket. And once a year, I'm wearing it all weekend.

It's OK. I didn't get it either. When I heard as a freshman that they were going to "initiate" my jacket, I told my Mom in confidence that I didn't want them to. Why would I intentionally make my jacket look old? And then, the day arrived when it was time to pick it up from Baron's Men's Shop. I was a little excited- I had seen all the other band members in their jackets, and I would have one of my own.

And the guy handed it to me. And it looked ridiculous. The letters were blindingly white- screaming "OHIO" at me from the back. And the sleeves were all stiff and new. This was clearly the jacket of a freshman.

"OK," I conceded- a little- "maybe there's something to this jacket initiation thing."

I handed my jacket to my Big. Reluctantly. Other band members ran around the field with freshman jackets- marching on them, wrapping them around trees, cleaning their car engines. But my Big made a little mud puddle, and methodically covered each of the letters and the patch on the front, turning the white to a dark brown. And he took his key and carefully put a hole in the patch that's shaped like the State of Ohio. The hole was right over the place where Springfield would be, had it been a real map. And then he asked if I wanted beer pockets.

"I'm sorry. What pockets?" I asked. Innocently. I was a very good little freshman.

"Beer pockets. If I rip the lining out of one of your pockets, it opens up to the inside of the jacket, and you can fit at least a six-pack in there." Of course, some jackets could fit more like a case. But mine was very small. "Makes it easier to get to and from parties without getting caught."

But I didn't drink. I was sort of known as a freshman for not drinking. Well, that and being a cheerleader. But mostly the not drinking thing. So I would not be requiring beer pockets. And, unlike many of the other Bigs, he honored this.

And then, he scratched his initials- TV- into the button second from the top. Followed by four other older band members. JT, and MW, and AK, and EH. And he started to make a diamond Ohio which, even today, (gulp) seventeen years later, remains just one triangle and a line. In fact the only things that have changed about my jacket since that day- aside from it getting more worn, of course- are my Tau Beta Sigma pin, and the small black ribbon I wear on my name patch on the inside to remember Jud and Frank. (who will always be with us at Homecoming)

I wore that jacket for the next five years, much to my mother's dismay. "What are you wearing over your formal dress to the Band Banquet?" she would ask. My band jacket. Obviously. I sat on it when it got too hot. And I used it to wipe the snow from my car. I wore it all over that gorgeous campus, and it let the world know that I was a member of one of the most honored organizations at that school.

It comes out of the closet today, ready to accompany me to Athens, where I will wear it. All weekend.

And you'll probably tell me you think it's gross. But I'll know you're just jealous.

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