Have you ever wanted something but got something similar instead? I remember in high school wanting a denim jacket. Somehow my uncle David, the person who introduced me to baseball and galvanized my love for the Cubs, found out I wanted a denim jacket. He sent me a dark blue, red and black plaid lined jacket back with my mom on one of her visits. I was so disappointed when I opened the box with anticipation and saw it. I wanted a faded blue, unlined, “Levi” jacket.
How was my uncle to know I needed a thin jacket to wear as a fashion statement in mild weather Tennessee? He was a hard-working practical man who endured the harsh winters of Illinois. Of course his gift made perfect sense. I just didn’t realize in that moment how that jacket would shape my life.
I came to love that jacket. As it turns out the weather in Tennessee is not always mild. That lining kept me warm on many a fall night. I could actually work in that jacket without worrying about getting it soiled or stained. Then still wear it out to a bonfire, a football game or cruise Riverside Drive. There was no label, no logo, no name brand on this jacket leading me to develop my appreciation for the product not the name. The biggest lesson as I wore out that jacket I learned to appreciate the little imperfections, the stains, rips and tears.
I am so thankful my uncle wasn’t there to see the disappointment on my face when I first received my plaid lined denim jacket. It served me well and truly became one of my most cherished gifts. It reminded me of my uncle. The time I was his mini me. Playing catch, baseball and rooting for the Cubs. Listening to his infamous Dave Kingman walk-up rendition. How I admired his RC Cola baseball can collection and cashing his paycheck for a dollar then being treated to Wendy’s or Dog-N-Suds. My uncle David is a good man. He taught me many humble lessons and I’m a Cubs fan because he is a Cubs fan.
Sometimes you don’t appreciate things until they’re gone. I eventually outgrew the jacket. I gave it to a friend who was excited to get a jacket with “character” as he called it. I’m not sure if I have any pictures of me in the jacket. This jacket was before cell phones with cameras. I’ll look one day.
I remember another time I felt the same kind of disappointment. The moment I was able to scroll through my digital camera to see our first family photo in front of a Major League Stadium. I handed the camera to a stranger in the pouring rain to take the picture. There was his hand and half of my head in the picture. After I got over the initial shock I thought of my jacket. Then thought this picture has “character.” The man was shielding my camera from getting wet. I appreciate the man protecting my camera. I appreciate him stopping in a downpour to indulge my family. I am so proud to have this photo. It’s one of my favorites. It’s the inspiration for this memory.