When the box came in the mail, he stared at the return address for a minute or two. His mother hadn’t sent him a package in at least a year. He wasn’t even sure how she’d come to know his address, but his curiosity got the better of him, and he ripped off the label and tore into the box.
“Holy cow!” He exclaimed as he peered at the contents. He didn’t know any of this stuff was still around. Lying on top was the letterman jacket he proudly wore in high school. He pulled it out of the box and marveled at the leather sleeves, and deep purple felt.
“What’cha got there, roomy?”
He found he had to clear his throat to talk. “It’s my old jacket from high school. My mother sent this box somehow. Did you give her the address?”
“Sure did. She hit me up on Facebook. She said she desperately needed to find out if you were okay. Seems like she hasn’t heard from you in a while, dude.”
“Well, that clears up that mystery. It looks like she cleaned out a closet or something. Wow, I forgot how much stuff was on this jacket.”
“Looks like you were a busy boy in high school. What is all that stuff?”
“A letter for Drama and the pins on it are for the additional years. Another letter and pins for Choir, and other things for my activities.”
“Since when did Drama qualify for a letter? It isn’t a sport.”
“It was in my high school. And, look at this; my jacket from FFA is in here, too.”
“What is ‘FFA’?”
“Wow, you really didn’t do anything in high school, did yuh? FFA stands for Future Farmers of America.”
“I thought you grew up in a city. What farms were around?”
“Vancouver, Washington is a pretty strange place. It is one sprawling place with farms on the fringes. My high school was built on what used to be an old orchard. I raised a lamb one year and built a flower garden in another.”
“Did you have to slaughter the lamb?” his roomy asked excitedly.
“No. But I had to sell it at the county fair. It was hard to give him up. I cried and everything.”
“You really were a pussy, weren’t you, Greg?”
“Here’s my medal for Knowledge Bowl, and the ribbons for my lamb. Holy crap – she even put all of my badges and pins from the Boy Scouts in here.”
“You never told me you were a Boy Scout. You know they don’t approve of homosexuality.”
“Yes, I’m well aware. That’s why I didn’t finish my final project for Eagle Scout. I came out right before I was finished and the troop leader kicked me out.”
“Could they really do that?”
“Of course, they could.”
“What did your parents do?”
“My mom went and threw a huge fit. She ended up cursing the entire board of directors. She wanted to sue the pants off them, but my Dad’s cooler head prevailed. He thought the whole thing would be worse for me in the end.”
A silence fell over the room. Tears were flowing down Gregory’s face.
“What’s the matter?”
“My mom sent me my baby blanket. Either she’s done with me, or she misses me very much.”
“Nah. She loves you, dude. She went through an awful lot of trouble to track down an address for you.”
“I missed the deadline.”
“I was supposed to go into rehab by the end of February, or she would cut off our communications until I could call her and be clean and sober.”
“Oh. That’s tough. What are you going to do? The number for that rehab place has been stuck up on the refrigerator for months.”
“I don’t know.”
Greg looked deep into the box and found a small box. He opened it to see a Saint Jude medal. He turned it over and read the inscription, ‘Always remember you are loved.’
He hung the chain around his neck and reached out for his crack pipe. She would still be there when he was ready. He knew it like he knew he would quit…someday.