Pioneer jacket

Maybe it’s the light, the grey light, and the sound of rain on the metal roof. Maybe it’s the time of year, the maples turning, the scent of elk in the air, and the last of the apples turned into pies. But there are ghosts everywhere. Looking out my window just now, I saw…my father? in the woodshed. No. It’s my husband, sorting out kindling.

pioneer jacket

As he was heading out earlier, we were talking about how time seems to be moving backwards for us. We hear our parents, their sayings—our mothers and their habitual frugalities, our fathers and how their notions of the world were shaped (inevitably) by their experiences of the war. So we laughed and then John came back into the kitchen, laughing. “I’m still wearing his jacket,” he said.

My dad loved Pioneer rainwear. I don’t know if it’s even available any longer. But he always had a green jacket, replaced perhaps once in his life. And when he bought the one new one I remember him buying, he passed along his old one to John. My father hasn’t worn the jacket since at least the early 1990s (and he’s been dead since 2009) but it still smells like him. More than him, it smells like my life with him, as a child camping, or walking some evenings with the family dog.

So the jacket reminds me. The air reminds me. The scent of elk. Apples with wrinkled skins on the counter. The way the rain sounds its own soft music until you don’t hear it anymore but it’s in your blood, your heart.

And I’ve been here before, I thought, my father’s old jacket taking me back as surely as anything can. In the mid-1990s, I wrote about his jacket, published in Red Laredo Boots, my first collection of essays. So I found my copy of the book and yes, here’s the passage:


The fire is warm, soup is simmering, and all the old ghosts are waiting in the grey light. Listen, listen, rain on the roof, the return of the Steller’s jays, the rustle of the jacket as my husband returns it to its hook.

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