When I was a little girl growing up in central Nebraska, my mother had a special coat. In those days, men and women dressed up for church. Mom had one particular coat that she wore only when it was very cold and she was feeling very fancy. The coat was made from fur, and it was as soft as a kitten.
I loved to sit next to my mom at church when she wore that coat. I would lay my head on her and pet the fur as though it was alive. It was so soft, and smelled so nice, a combination of nature and her perfume. She looked so pretty. She probably felt pretty too, because that’s what wearing fur did to women back in the days before fur coats became a pallet for red paint. They made women feel pretty and fancy.
Somewhere along the line, I recalled her telling me the coat was made from muskrat fur. I’ve always doubted my memory on that account because muskrats always seemed ugly to me. I’m not a big fan of rodents. I recently double-checked my memory. Were muskrats pelts used to make coats?
The answer is yes. According to Wikipedia, the really expensive fur coats that were popular in the 1960s were made from the fur of leopards, jaguars, panthers, foxes, and, of course, minks. Less expensive furs were made from pelts of wolves and muskrats.
That Mom’s coat was made from muskrat fur suddenly made sense to me. My Dad loved my mother from the moment he met her (according to him) until the day she died. He would have showered her with all the gifts he could afford. He, however, wasn’t a well-paid businessman; instead, he was a hard-working, small business owner and baker. So, muskrat fur it was.
All of that didn’t matter to me then or now. I loved when she wore that coat. She looked beautiful, with her hair curled and her lips painted a pretty shade of red.
Memories flooded back to me the other day when I opened the closet in our guest room to begin cleaning it out and sending its contents to Goodwill. The coat hung between two dresses that have been particularly meaningful in my life — my wedding dress and the dress I wore to Court’s wedding. All three of the garments seemed to be looking at me and saying, “And just what in the hell are you going to do with US, my friend?”
The fur coat is a prime example of the truth I’m going to be facing every day: I have shit that no one wants. Seriously, who among my family wants a fur coat? No one wears fur these days. A large number of my family members live in AZ where it is unbearably hot for much of the year. Wearing fur is a no go and has been since the mid-1980s. I’m not sure Goodwill even wants a fur coat. And could I really bear the thought that my mother’s much-loved coat will go to a teenager for $11.95 to wear as a Halloween costume?
Night before last, I made a surprise visit to my niece Jessie to see the house she and her boyfriend recently purchased. I also took them a pretty pot of plants (I’m telling you that so that I can use alliteration in my blog, making me look smart.) In the course of our tour, I told her about the fur coat, and how it was going to probably end up at Goodwill.
Without hesitation, she told me, “Aunt, I will take the coat.”
I practically started to cry at that point. I know there is no way Jessie will ever wear the coat. But of all of my mother’s grandkids, Jessie is the one who reminds me most of Mom. She’s petite like Mom. She’s small, but powerful, like Mom. She has strong opinions like Mom. I am so happy to have the coat hang in her closet.
I think the part that convinced her was when I explained that the coat had her nana’s initials embroidered inside…..
Now, will anyone step forth and offer to take my wedding dress?