The oldest jacket

I’ve been thinking about a formspring question that Kelsey answered the other day: what’s the oldest piece of clothing that you still wear regularly?

Because lately I’ve been wearing that very thing: my old Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra Vienna trip jacket from the summer of 1989, when I was a teenage girl playing the viola.* The local youth orchestra was invited to perform at the Vienna youth and music festival (this one?), and we did a two week trip in Germany and Austria.

That trip was the farthest I’d ever traveled — and honestly, still the farthest to this day — I’d only left California to go to Arizona to visit my grandparents. For the first time I experienced forests, big rivers, lakes, mountains: all those things that I came to love about the northwest. I suppose I’d seen some of those things at Big Bear, or on vacation in the Gold Country, but not in that sort of moist temperate climate. Cool summer weather, too; I distinctly remember going on a boat tour under steely-grey skies. It was probably the first inkling of the kind of place where I really wanted to live.

Like any big event, the trip exists in my head as a kaleidoscope of images, sounds, smells, tastes: I got a taste for “fancy” mustard in Germany, I played Barber’s Adagio in the courtyard of Vienna City Hall at dusk, I watched Scarecrow & Mrs King dubbed in German. 🙂 The whole trip was one of those unforgettable experiences — not really immediately life-changing, but an expansion of my view.

I remember being overwhelmed by history in quite a few locations: standing outside of St Stephan’s cathedral in Vienna, and not even being able to fathom a single building being in a single place, used for the same thing, for all that time. “Old” in LA means before World War II, or at most the Spanish Missions: maybe 200 hundred years? Still astounding to me even now, the difference in scale of time.

The people I traveled with were for the most part people I’d known through junior high school, had been in orchestra with, gone to music camp with, and I went to school with probably a third or more. It was a visit to a new place, but embedded in something of my normal life. So I remember moments of feeling my social isolation very intensely, and moments of being in a groove hanging out with friends. More of the former, alas, although at the same time I remember really enjoying some times of wanted solitude. There was a castle we went to on a tour, and I skipped the tour to hang out in the gardens and forest. I may have missed the tour, but oh how I loved walking there by myself.

I got my hair cut in Vienna in my hotel room; I wish I could remember who started it, but it turned out to be at least a dozen people standing around, giving suggestions, or heckling. (The boy I’d had a crush on a few years earlier exclaimed in mocking tones that they were destroying my hair. Or something.) It was actually a pretty decent haircut, looking back at old photos, not terribly unlike the cut I had recently. When I got home, all Mom ever said was: “it’s hair. It grows.” I’ve taken that as my motto re: haircuts ever since.

I think it was also the beginning of growing out of a bad attitude towards the boy who’d had a crush on me in junior high. (Hey there, if you’re reading; tell me if I’m totally flubbing any of this!) I got a penpal through one of the other musical groups, and she thought said boy was dreamy. Which struck me as totally weird, as did her obsession with New Kids on the Block — why yes, it was 1989 — but in some corner of my brain it broke my hard-and-fast antipathy towards him.

As for the jacket itself, it’s white with a Tournament of Roses logo on the back, surrounded with lettering in maroon. It’s got a bit of an 80s flair to it, especially in the collar. The jacket was part of our informal concert uniform, which was completed with white pants and a maroon polo shirt. Who in the name of $DEITY thought that white pants & jackets on teenagers was a good idea?!

I hadn’t worn it since high school, but I kept it out of nostalgia, moving it from box to box over the years. It went out of fashion, or I thought it was dorky, and then I gained weight and it wouldn’t have fit anyway. A couple of years ago, after losing weight, I was cleaning out one of those boxes and started trying on some of the nostalgia clothes. Several things fit that hadn’t in a long time, and the jacket was one of them.

More curiously, it turned out to be just the thing for a particular situation, one which has been happening lately: bicycling in cool but not cold weather, when I’m not expecting any rain but need just a bit of an extra layer. So the last few weeks I’ve worn it with my bike clothes on my morning commutes. It’s comfortable, and I think the (still!) brilliant white makes me a bit more visible. I’m happy I never tossed it in my many moves and cleanouts.

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* I played viola from 3rd grade through my freshman year of college. I was never particularly good, probably because I balked at practicing. But I enjoyed it, and paid for lessons out of my allowance in junior high and high school (several different great teachers), and got to go to music camp, and played at Disneyland, and, well, went to Europe. Good times.

2 Replies to “The oldest jacket”

  1. I’ve briefly considered, on more than one occasion (maybe twice), sporting my high school band jacket. Fashion has prevailed.

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