My Life in Jackets
Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own hometown. And I need a new winter jacket. You’re probably saying, those are two completely unrelated thoughts. Bear with me while I take you through my journey.
I grew up right here on Long Island. Plainview to be exact. It’s been a long and winding road ending up back home. I know Suffolk is very different than Nassau, differences I now love, but when I moved back to Long Island 12 years ago, this time with my family in tow, that was just one of the many things I didn’t know after moving away 34 years ago.
As a kid in Plainview I never gave a second thought to winter jackets. It was just a given, something you always had. I don’t even remember shopping for them, even though I must have. And I had lots of long sleeve shirts, sometimes sweaters but not too many because when it was cold outside, stores, restaurants, school, wherever you went as a kid, always cranked the heat. You didn’t want to be wearing anything too warm that you couldn’t take off when you got inside.
After graduating Hofstra, with a radio, TV and film degree, not the most useful degree in the world, but it made for a fun four years, I made my first move. North. To Boston. I landed a job as a production assistant/associate producer for a local video station a la MTV called V66 – WVJV-TV. I’m showing my age. This was the mid-80s. It was a world where most people didn’t have cable TV yet, and V66 was on a – wait for it- UHF channel. Does anyone here remember UHF?
Sorry, getting off topic. A big part of my job, was to accompany a cameraman in a van, something I would never let my daughter do today, and take off to all the suburbs of Boston and get “station ID’s.” Back at the station PR people would write “wonderful” alliterations, like Cheeky in Chelsea, Wicked in Wakefield, and Radical in Revere. We would have random people say these “beautiful” phrases while holding up a Peace Sign with their fingers but instead of a peace sign the V your fingers made would stand for V66.
So, my cameraman would set up shop on a street corner or park and it would be my job to walk up to strangers and ask them if they wanted to do a station ID.
Okay, what does this have to with jackets? You might be asking. Well, it’s COLD in Boston, even in the outskirts. I bought lots of thick wool sweaters that I wore inside and out. And, I went shopping for the first time I remember, for warmest, longest jacket I could find.
After living in Boston for about a year, I went to visit my college roommate in The Entertainment Industry’s Promised Land. Los Angeles! I fell in love. Six months later I was in LA armed with thick sweaters and that incredibly warm winter jacket in a place where if it hit 55 degrees in January that was FREEZING.
I got a job as a writers’ assistant on an NBC summer replacement, again showing my age, called “Me and Mrs. C.” After typing up other people’s words for a couple of months I had an idea for an episode. I wrote it up, showed it to the executive producer, and he bought it! It was taped and aired! I wrote an episode of NBC sitcom that was on the air in the summer of 1986! This was going to be my new career! I was overjoyed. I was going to be a TV writer! Life happened. I moved from TV writing to journalism. Which I love and I am doing to this day. I lived in Southern and Northern California for 12 years. Lots of apartments, lots of jobs, lots of moves. I moved from my 20s to my 30s while moving jobs and apartments. In each of those moves I shed a few winter things. First thing to go was the jacket. The sweaters were replaced with cotton T-shirts, shorts, sundresses and for those very cold 55-degree days, some sweatshirts and jeans.
While working as a staff writer at a community newspaper, I met my husband in Long Beach, California. He was a Naval Officer. A few months after we met he had to move up north to Monterey. We got engaged and I moved up there with him. I worked freelance at the daily “Monterey County Herald” while our son toddled around my ankles. If you’ve ever been to Monterey you know how beautiful it is, and the climate is perfect. But coming from Southern California I thought it was cold, when it was a bit chilly in the morning and would warm up to 70 in the afternoons.
I was in for a shock. From Monterey we moved to Maryland. By this time our little boy was two, and I didn’t even own socks. I took my little one to a “Mommy and Me” event at the mall. I was wearing a California State Long Beach Sweatshirt. It was November. A mom sitting next to me said to me, “I lived in California.” I thought she was just making conversation. She said, “That’s the warmest thing you have isn’t it.” I meekly said “Yes.” She emphatically told me I had to get a …. You guessed it… A Winter Jacket.
I went to the Burlington Coat Factory because I had seen commercials for it. I also just saw a Seinfeld episode where Jerry was talking about a new fabric that was really warm, but thin.
So, I tried on a thin coat and asked the salesman if this was the new fabric. He looked at me like I was an alien, which I felt like at that moment. He said, “No! You have to get something thick and warm,” he pointed to a puffy coat that would make me look like the Michelin Man, “It’s COLD here.”
I bought the jacket and wore it for years. I was a weekly contributor to “The Baltimore Sun,” while my little boy went from kindergarten to fourth grade, my beautiful girl toddled around my ankles and eventually started full-day kindergarten. After eight years in Maryland my husband retired from the Navy. I told him that if I had to deal with the weather I wanted to go home. So, here we are, many jackets later, on Long Island. My kids are in college now. My son is in Boston, with lots of warm clothes. He is headed to Melbourne, Australia next semester where it is warm and he won’t need them at all. My daughter is in her freshman year at Ithaca, just beginning to accrue her winter attire. I’m still writing. I just had an essay published in the new “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.” It’s winter on Long Island and we just had our first snowstorm. I do believe it’s time for a new jacket. Any suggestions?