Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 5 - My Mother's Coat

My Mother's Coat

No one who lived through it looks back

to the Great Depression. Holding on was what they did

to make do and get out. Then, my grandparents wanted

everything new, threw out the old

Depression glass, sold the Fiestaware at garage sale -

service for twelve, 25 bucks -

and bought Melmac, new.

My mother spent her adult years scouring

flea markets, garage sales, antique stores

and fighting her sister

for every scrap to resurrect and rewrite

the childhood she despised - a tin cup nursery rhyme,

Duncan Phyfe sewing table and a little red wagon.

I am too much my mother's child,

believing enough elbow grease can scrub the residuals

from an unsatisfactory past. Today I mourn

and look for a midnight couch,

velvet, redolent of Minnesota basement and escape

into Black Stallion and Nancy Drew.

Instead, in a rack of old clothes,

in the form of a b/w houndstooth coat,

velvet collar, I run into my mother's must

do's – perfectly ironed, smelling just short of scorched,

cotton sheets, daily swept sidewalks, Pledged oak furniture,

waxed linoleum floors and the small

revolt of my sister's upchucking

Mom's potato chip, pea and tuna casserole

on her flow blue plate, topped with a handful

of pills when Mom couldn't take anymore.

I try the coat on. Two inches too short in the sleeves

and a choke hold across my chest, a perfect fit

for my daughter, who I know will treat it with due respect -

she will wear it to her job and to the bars,

she will wear it to clean out her car

and to take out the trash. On my next visit

to her apartment I will find this coat, named

for a class of dogs, a comfy bed for her cats.


  1. A nicely structured view of four generations: the grandparents who wanted to throw out the past, the packrat mother, the packrat narrator, and the daughter who returns to the grandparents' attitude by throwing her grandmother's coat on the floor. "Fiestaware" and "Melmac" are nice period details, and I very much like "the small/ revolt" (but also, ew).

    I don't think I can work out the name of the coat.

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    1. very nice story, sounds and lbs, this seems very polished already. good stuff!!


  3. Thank you both! Rachel, I don't know that the coat has a name. Jackie Kennedy wore one like it, women of the sixties wore them all the time. In fact, I think there were different styles (cut) with the same velvet(een) color and houndstooth pattern.