The day his coat came home
No matter how hard I resist, a good quality book fair will suck me in every time. The memories of all the hours cuddled up with my kiddos on the floor, beds, or couches, in the van, at the park, and on gymnasium bleachers fondly race through my mind. This is the only excuse I can proffer for the reason I stopped by the book fair organized by the EMSP club at the campus where I teach. Like a moth drawn to an inviting light, I tried hard to avoid the colorful display, but eventually succumbed to the adventures found within the pages of a good book. I perused the titles, read the jackets, and one book sang its siren song . . . until the next thing I knew I had purchased the hardcover wonder to take back to my office. Safely behind closed doors, I read The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and laughed until my sides hurt. I couldn’t wait to take my new treasure home to share with my youngest, even though neither of us fit the book’s targeted demographic.
Much like the book’s story, a once beloved item recently found its way home to our house. I wish I could say its arrival brought celebratory joy. Unfortunately after it was dropped off, numb was all I felt. My sweetie confessed to having similar feelings and we decided we would tuck it quietly away. The day Reed’s glasses, well one lens, came back to us was a day filled with tears of joy, but we have been so overwhelmed with intense feelings of disappointment recently that when Reed’s coat was returned to us, it was just one more reminder of the pain we still endure.
Without fanfare, I hung the coat in the closet.
And there it has hung – a silent reminder to a boy who isn’t coming home.
Days come and days go and my thoughts don’t swirl around the camouflage winter jacket hanging in the front closet.
Then in a search for a lost mitten, I see it again and stand frozen before the door, while everyone else is trying frantically to get by me. I stand in silent agony and let the tears fall.
In some small, weird way, I feel I owe the coat more. Reed loved that coat and all it signified. He was now a hunter, following in the footsteps of his dad and his Grandpa Earl before him. If the coat were like the crayons in the book that made me smile, perhaps it might pen a message to us about its journey home.
Dear Family –
I know you didn’t expect my return. I have been safely tucked away in a quiet corner at the house of someone you hold dear. The someone who was called to come and pick me up when the broken pieces of your life laid strewn across a highway, later to be scooped up and sorted through. Unlike the backpacks and shoes that never made it home, I was spared the fate of those other items. I see when you open the closet, you catch your breath. It is hard not to notice. I never meant to cause you any pain.
I remember the day our boy first put me on. He found me nestled under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, sitting next to a new duck call and a gift certificate for duck and goose decoys. When he put me on I could feel how proud he was, standing a little taller, officially a hunter with all his gear. Pride mingled with joy are amazing feelings. He wore me every day after that through all those cold and bitter days. The only day he didn’t wear me in the few months we were together was when he needed his parka to go skiing with his best buddies and Dad. I didn’t mind the slight, because I knew he always chose me when we romped and wrestled in the snow with Huck each day.
One of the best smells in the world is wet boy mixed with wet dog and I proudly wore it.
Our last day together wasn’t anything spectacular, other than being cold when we left the house. I waited quietly stuffed in his messy locker while he went through his day. I never complained how disorganized it was, because I knew our adventures would begin as soon as the bell rang.
I just didn’t know that day would be our last.
Why we got to the bus so early that day, I will never know, because most days we barely made it on in time. Sitting there behind Sawyer, it was time to go home . . . only I didn’t know which home that meant for our boy.
I know our story didn’t end the way you had expected. You know – the story where I either ended up well worn with holes or passed onto the next one in line or given away to someone more needy. I didn’t expect to be locked away in a box for over seven years, waiting to come home.
And while I want you to know I feel your pain every time you open the closet. I was proud to be the one who gave our boy his last warm hug, wrapping around him for one last time. There are others in the world who would feel the pride and joy he once had, and it is okay with me if you want to give me to another. My suggestion would be the cute little girl who will someday soon tag along on some really epic adventures.
Either way just know – I was proud to have been loved by our boy.