Nearly every woman I know has kept her wedding dress. Not all have kept their husbands, but the dress is separate, existing as it does, skirting the line between fantasy and reality. I even kept mine and it was just an eyelet lace dress, not a real wedding gown. The point is, there are some garments one may certainly outgrow but which never quite make it to the Goodwill bin.
I have a laundry basket filled with such items. There are favorite shirts, worn at their creases and faded; dresses my late mother sewed for me replete with tiny hand stitches I cannot just discard, and a couple of handmade quilts I earned during my time living in Vermont. One item stands out.
When my mother moved in with me in her very old age, she brought her old Borgana coat. Borgana, or Borganza, as it is sometimes called, looks and feels rather like beaver fur but is a synthetic. When I was 14 she bought me one and I did not appreciate it. As a short person, the last thing I needed, especially at that age, was something that added width, subtracted visual height, and made me self-conscious. I accidentally ruined that coat by leaning up against a hot radiator. Though Mom was angry, she did not replace it with another. Instead, I got a pea coat, which was what I wanted in the first place.
When Mom died, 10 years ago this month, I got rid of all her clothing the next day. That sounds unfeeling, but I knew if I kept them, they would only deepen my grief. Later, I found her coat and could not part with it. Every year since then I’ve debated what to do with a coat older than my grown children, stylish as pillbox hats, and as likely to be used as the hatpins they required.
A few weeks ago, I tidied up my office and took the coat out of the closet. I thought, “It’s time.” So I gave it a little more thought and found the perfect use for that old, beloved, besmirched, coat. I’m giving it to Clark, my 14 year-old black lab. Mom liked him; buttered English muffins for him and loved his gentle ways. But Clark has a quirk. He won’t come inside the house and in recent years I have kept him warm by creating a bed for him out of an old pack-and-play lined with blankets. Before I retire for the night I tuck him in. This winter he gets Mom’s coat.
I went out last night with it for the first time and tucked in my crazy old dog. He groaned with joy as he felt the furry warmth surround him. Even this morning, I saw him return to the bed and nuzzle it happily, preferring it to his usual hole in the ground beneath my bedroom window.
Somewhere, I think Mom is both mad and smiling that someone finally appreciates that coat!