I believe in oversized jackets. Not the kind that you get for your birthday from the distant aunt you met once. But the jackets you steal from your dad, brother, maybe even your best friend. The feeling of wearing something a person you care about wore is comforting. It’s like a shield you carry everywhere you go.
When I was 11 years old, my older brother Noah went away to Europe on an exchange program for a year. The first two weeks he was gone, I was ok with it. When you have divorced parents, you get used to not seeing family for a while. But when the third week came, something clicked. I walked into my brother’s room to find it cleaned for the first time since we moved in. His bed was unchanged--all the stuffed animals were there, frozen in time. The room just wasn't the same. It felt like a display in the Museum of All Things Past. Walking into a room that hasn’t been used in a while is very eerie. You can see the person’s wake and their personality. But not them.
Hanging on a chair was an old jacket Noah got at summer camp. Being his little sister, I took the jacket, because (this was my excuse) I was cold. The second I put it on, I could smell Noah. I remembered what his face looked like when we dropped him off at the airport. I remembered the song we danced to the night before. And most of all, I remembered the promise he made to me. That he would only be gone a year and would be back soon. And that he would send me movie titles that I should watch. I think he was trying to turn me into a movie critic.
I missed having someone next door who I could gossip and talk about life with. I missed having the only person who shared my understanding of family. But, at the same time, it made me grateful for Mac n’ Cheese night. And for the random belting of Disney songs. These memories are the fundamental truths of my family. I care about them more than I would like to admit. It’s true what they say about only realizing what you have when it’s gone. I didn’t realize how much I loved my family until a huge part of it was on a different continent. All of this from the smell of an old jacket.
By the time the smell of the jacket faded, it was time to pick Noah up at the airport. And I will never forget his face when he came running out of the terminal. I was so excited I could poke his arm and bother him in my state. I could belt out songs with him in my town. And I loved him more than ever in my house. Anytime I needed a hug I could just yell, and the person who filled the jacket would come sashaying up to me. That is why I believe in oversized jackets.
Vera Mendum-Purdy is in 8th grade at Delta Middle School. She wrote this essay for her “Writing for Publication” class.