February 20, 2017
This is a thrifted Levi’s jean jacket my father picked up in the early years of their relationship. They met in the 90’s which makes the fashion choice only truly fitting. I grew up watching them run errands and walk outside wearing it. It fit them both equally so I never questioned who’s it was. It seemed to be both of theirs, the middle of the Venn diagram. Neutral Territory.
It’s a basic jacket beyond two defining characteristics. One is the fraying on the collar from extensive use over a two-decade long marriage. The second, two beaded patches on the shoulders, which are both identical in their color and geometrical design. I never asked about it growing up, it just seemed like a natural family ornamentation, like a decorative painting on the wall for years. It doesn’t really need a reason, at least not to those who actually see it.
I only asked about it moments before I was supposed to leave my parent’s home for Brown. They saw me looking at it hanging in our coatroom. They asked me if I liked it and I said yes. It’s a beaded jean jacket why wouldn’t I? My parents, both, then said with as much blaze as possible, “It’s yours then, we haven’t worn it in years.” I took it immediately and left. It was only once I was in the car ride to a housing transition of semi-permanency that I asked them why they had it. I liked the answer they gave a lot.
My father is Native American, Ojibwe. My mother is a white woman. In the early years of their relationship my father, for a reason he never specified, decided to teach my mother how to loom bead by hand. They both designed it and then each did one patch by hand as he taught her a tradition of his, and my, people. It’s a physical representation of love and culture. It was their physical representation of the gap they had to bridge to make their relationship work. Now it’s mine.