“Boy, if you ask me about that damn jacket one more time ... I already said NO!”
I had this way of annoying my mother every time she decided to go shopping at Randall Park Mall. My 13th birthday was in a week, so I had to put my bid in on gift ideas, while she seemed to have bought the entire store for my kid sister. At 12 almost 13, I was tall, awkward, goofy, sneaky and very immature. Pestering my kid sister was my most favorite thing to do – which was a sure way to work my mother’s nerves.
On this particular Saturday, we were shopping for dress shoes for my sister. “All that robbing, killing and stealing for a damn Starters Jacket, they ain't gone do nothing but knock you upside yo head and take it!” my mother exclaimed.
“Yeah, they ain't gone do nothing but knock you upside your fat head and take it!” my kid sister said mockingly, sticking out her tongue while holding her shopping bags and prancing around in her brand new black and white Suzy Q’s.
It was 1992 and at that time Starter Jackets were the most popular brand among the hip hop generation. Coming in a wide variety of colors and styles, Starter Jackets not only represented all Major Leagues, they also symbolized flair, status and you were the coolest if you had one. Back in those days, certain Starter Jackets also expressed gang life and culture. All across the country, young people were getting robbed, jumped, stabbed, shot and even murdered for those jackets. This violent phenomenon terrorized our neighborhood but was still a foreign subject to me.
I had my eyes set on the new hooded Pittsburgh Steelers pull-over jacket. It was black with gold sleeves and white trimming around both shoulders and wrist. The back of the jacket read “Steelers” in big block gold letters. The front of the jacket had the Steelers emblem on the right front panel with the “starters” insignia on the cuff of the right sleeve. There was also a knit skull cap, gloves with gold fingers and a black scarf with “Pittsburgh” stitched in gold across its length.
There were two other mannequins on display. One was wearing the home and the other wore the away Rod Woodson #26 Jerseys. I had to have them all, the jacket, scarf, gloves and both the home and away jerseys, at whatever cost.
I took a long last look at the Browns vs. Steelers display and actually saw myself standing there in the Pittsburgh Steelers jacket, hat, the gloves with gold fingers, scarf and all. As we got closer to the parking lot, my eyes started to well, then a single tear rolled my cheek.
My sister teased, “Awwwwww… look at the big boy cry like a baby boy … Heheheheh.”
My mother gave me a vicious look. Lips curled, she firmly said, “BOOOYYYYEEE! I know yo big ass ain't crying about that damn jacket!?”
I sobbed, “Y'all never get me anything! Sylvia gets everything!” As I looked at my little sister with fire in my eyes, another tear rolled down. Those tears made my mother furious. She yelled, “Ain't nobody thinking about them tears nor that jacket so shut up and get your ass in the car now. I don’t want to hear anything else about that damn jacket!”
She meant every word. We were in the parking lot. I was embarrassed, people were watching and all I could do was get in the car, hide in my coat and mumble to myself, “Daddy will get it for me -- watch!” I sat silently the entire ride home.
Damien Ware has organized as well as hosted various public performances and open mics and facilitated creative writing workshops for all ages. A zine-maker and poetic video blogger, Ware loves to share his talent for writing with the community, through self-publishing and public / web-based performances. He holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Wayne State University and a Bachelors Degree in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University. He is a husband and father of three and writes daily.
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About the program
Who We Are, Where We Live is a free community writing program giving voice to people who live and work in the Buckeye/Shaker community. Participants write stories, learn about their neighborhood, and share with their neighbors. Annually, selected writings are published here in an online anthology and presented at a final reading and celebration.