I saw that the daily prompt was about those childhood memories of being denied the very gift you most desired. The only thing I ever asked for that I did not receive was a Carolina blue Jordan Flight track suit back in the late 80’s. I was in high school at the time. Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in their full glory. All the popular kids began to wear the Jordan shoes and the red and black version of the track suit. I never really liked the color red because of my grandmother. (More about her in a minute.) My favorite color was blue. So of course, I wanted the suit that was blue and less popular than the other colorway. I was always taught to be different.
To give you some background, I was raised in two states until I was 12. My mother and father lived in Arizona. My maternal grandmother lived in California. The three of them shared custody of me. It was a situation that benefited all of us. My mom was able to finish high school and work full-time. (She was a 14-year-old high school freshman when I was born. She had been living as an adult since she was 13. It still amazes me what type of freedom of choice she had in the 70’s) My dad was able to work full-time (He left school his senior year to make sure I was provided for.) My grandmother had another little girl she could dress up and show off. (She 35, young enough to have the stamina to care for me but more settled than she had been raising her daughters.) I had the combined love of all three.
I grew up believing that I could have anything I desired. I was quite spoiled by my grandmother. Weekly trips to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are a huge part of my memories with her. We also had no problem spending the day shopping in the garment district 3-4 times a month. And when our “money was funny” we would settle for a day trip to watch “the show” in the movie theaters along Sunset, Vine, and Hollywood BLVD. We would always cap it off with a meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken (Barbecue chicken, two mashed potatoes and a strawberry parfait for me; original recipe, corn on the cob, coleslaw and a strawberry parfait for her) followed by a sundae at Swensen’s and watching David the street performer. We were always on the go and dressed to the nines. My grandmother believed you should always dress up because you never know who you would meet. (In California that was really good advice. I did meet Rudy Ray Moore, members of Bloodstone, Ice T and Bill Duke among lesser known “stars”.)
In Arizona, my parents, me and my sister (I was almost 5 when she was born) would go on all sorts of adventures. Whether we were tooling around in Arizona on day trips or enjoying one of the many entertainment venues, we were always on the go. My parents bought us the most beautiful clothes and shoes. We had all the toys that make a childhood great. We never had to choose between “this or that”. We knew that eventually we would get “this AND that”. Now my parents didn’t spoil us like my grandmother did me but they provided all of our needs and most of our wants. Our friends swore we were “rich”. We weren’t; hell, we still aren’t, but our parents were awesome budget planners. If they said “not right now” it was usually followed with a definitive date we would receive our request. Even with this knowledge somewhere along the way I lost my ability to voice my desires.
Several different factors contributed to this loss. One was the desire not to be a burden. I realized how hard my parents worked to provide for us. This became extremely obvious after they broke up and I finally moved home full time. My mom was working at a job that only gave her one -3 day weekend every 6 weeks. She would spend that time trying to catch up on the sleep she missed out on by working 10 -12 hours a day for 6 weeks straight. I realized that my dad was my dad in love only and I didn’t want to take away from the care of my sisters. I felt as if my grandmother spoiled me to try to wage a small war against my mom. Another point was that I had rebelling against the teachings of my grandmother and her religion. (We were a part of Nation of Islam. My grandmother was also quite fond of expensive material items. I had had enough of fussy dresses and a love of things.) Oh and I had been molested for a couple of years. Those things were enough to take my ability to ask for my desires for many years. The only time I went against that was for the Jordan track suit.
I was about 16 and the Chicago Bulls was one of the hottest basketball teams in the country thanks to the triple threat of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. Jordan of course was the star. Nike began to make signature shoes and track suits in his name. Since the Bulls colors are red and black, most of the items were issued in those colors. But… there was also a blue and black colorway to honor Jordan’s college years down in the Carolinas. Not many people knew or sought those items out. Even though I was rebelling against my grandmother’s teachings some of them stuck with me. One of those lessons was about not being a part of the crowd but being an individual at all cost. The other was the negative perception of the color red. She told me stories about how some of the Africans were captured for slavery behind red cloth. And living in L.A. we were exposed to the Crip and Blood gangs. We experienced some really bad sights living in the Jungle, which was deep in the territory of a Blood faction. I was attacked in Kindergarten by a young man who identified as a Blood gang member. For me the color red had and still has a negative connotation. So I absolutely did not want the red suit.
My mother asked me what I wanted for my Christmas that year. I confidently told her that I wanted a Jordan tracksuit. I felt that it shouldn’t be that big of a deal as she had just given me a car and 16 long stem roses for my birthday. She said she had seen those outfits at Foot Locker. I asked her if she saw the blue version. She said she saw a few but they mainly had red on black or the black on red. I told her that I didn’t want the red one, I wanted the blue one. She asked if I wanted the shoes too. At that time, the only model of Nike I wore was the Cortez, (that’s still my go to shoe today), so I told her I just wanted the track suit. This conversation took place in September. She told me in October she was having a hard time finding the blue and black version. She then asked me if I would accept the red on black. I flat out refused. We talked again in November. Once again I reiterated my desire but I was becoming doubtful. Christmas morning I tore through all of my gifts. I got jewelry, books, new notebooks, clothes…but no track suit. The last small box was an I.O.U. for the suit but I was already disappointed by then. My mom couldn’t find it in any of our local stores. I lamented living in Arizona. I felt so sorry for myself that I could not enjoy the love shown in the other gifts. My mom and newish step dad promised they would get me the suit as soon as they could find it. But by then I no longer wanted it. I sulked for a few days and then put it out of my mind. In February my mom called home excitedly and told me she had finally found the track suit. I told her not to buy it as I no longer wanted it. She just didn’t understand. I had set my heart on that suit for Christmas. I felt like I had never asked for that much compared to my sister, who regularly made my mom by ridiculously expensive name brand items. I felt that if they could find her everything on her list including a Penzoil go cart, they should have been able to find the one thing I wanted. Since they couldn’t and broke my teen angsty heart, I no longer wanted it. In truth, I felt rejected. I felt that their inability was a reflection of their lack of love for me.
In all honesty, they loved me too much. My mom had spent months searching when she should have been resting. My dad went to other cities in Arizona looking. Even my step-dad was calling people in Wisconsin to see if they could find this particular request of mine. They were just as disappointed as I was. And I made it worse by sulking. Looking back I know exactly how much my parents loved me. They went out of their way for a kid who ended up being ungrateful for the things they did buy me. That was a hard lesson to swallow when it happened to me as a parent of a teen angsty girl. So while I may always long for that track suit, I learned an awesome lesson. No matter how badly you want a thing, the people in your life should be your greatest concern. I also learned not to give my kids so many things but all of the time and love they need to feel secure.
(P.S. If you happen to have the blue Jordan Flight suit from around 89 and no longer want it, please send it to me. Don’t worry about shoes; I have a pair of black leather Cortez’s. 😀 )