The Coat Saga…again

This was the year. I had no need of coats of any kind. My coat closet was full, mostly of my mom’s coats that I hadn’t recycled yet and the Christmas tree that Sophie broke (she has a white wire addiction), but full enough of my own coats that I was fine. So, why did I find myself back at Name Brand Clothing less than a week after my daughter returned to New York with her own purchases? I got through a trip there and bought nothing, yea, nothing for myself. That might have been it. I went through all the coats at Name Brands and my subconscious knew and remembered each coat–knew that this was the year when I could finally escape the curse of the English major and own  a coat that wasn’t black. As usual, the reasoning was complicated, and once untangled, may not make sense until the reasons are restructured into a new whole.

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First, the move away from black as default was a real desire, I found. I spend much more time walking from the parking lot to Siceluff now because of the construction on the new Welcome Center and the added detour around the vile smokers who smoke on campus despite the ban due to a loophole about city-owned streets. So, I’m walking more and and feeling like black is not really the thing, you know? I don’t want to be one of those anime villains who wear black and whoosh black capes in the snow. Classic black seems constricting. I also don’t want to do purples, since it seems to be the clothing manufacturer’s choice for feisty old ladies. I may be spending too much time avoiding constructed stereotypes, but I feel it is a good fight, one worth winning. There are no red hats in my closet, no matter how much good that club may do.

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There were purple coats though, all but one from my mom’s wardrobe. I took a look when I pulled the tree out from the closet and three-quarters of the coat closet was full of her coats. That might have been part of it. The rest was the back of my mind, the not quite silent dialogue with self that goes on whether or not we pay attention to it. I need to go to the store. No, I don’t want to. Why? I’ll have to wear a black coat. You have other coats that aren’t black. Not the right weight though. But you like the subtle play of muted plaid on your last coat and it’s not black, not precisely. Gun metal grey and black is still black. You could wear your full-length nubbly coat. Still black. So what’s wrong with black?

I had no precise answer to that. in my mind, I saw the third grade me, twirling in the snow, a splash of hooded red about to fall and make a snow angel. There were others across the street wearing blue, green, brown, so many colors, but not black. I had navy blue more than once, but it had a richness of tone that worked and I had a good scarf collection. This was the vision: that of of color against the falling snow and later, the snow as it aged and how well black works with dirt, grey skies, and ice pellets pricking at the shoulders. It melts and doesn’t show at all.

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At that point I gave up and went to Name Brands. It was not so much that black was unwearable, but more that the shopping trip the week before showed me that this was the year that the non-black coated me was possible. The possibility of the me, outgoing and non-stereotypically wearing a red coat or (gasp) a teal coat was there, hanging in rows over two very long aisles. There were accessories too, and that can make all the difference. I ended up with three coats: a full-length teal coat, a muted blue quilted jacket, and a brown tweed 3/4 length pea jacket. Accessories were found as well: a multi-tone blue/green/cream knitted headband, a deep brown eyelash chenille hat, gloves, and scarf set, and a pair of Isotoner gloves. All this for under $120– $30 each for the coats.

All four bags sat on the tea cart in the dining ell until Saturday when I broke down and cleaned out the coat closet. The wreathes went to the very top shelf, leaving the other shelf for hats. Scarves and mufflers were clipped and draped over a hanger, and my mom’s coats, the ones I will never wear, moved one step further away to the garage, where they now sit next to way too much other stuff that is not mine and that I don’t need. The closet though is now a joy, a place where evenly spaced coats hang and accessory decisions can easily be made. I even found my snow boots, and left them on the floor of the closet, ready for inevitable snow.

 

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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