Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Coat Closet


The other night I was watching an old black and white movie and there was a scene where a woman was wearing a long fur coat. I was suddenly transported to another time and place.

The place was the hall closet of my childhood home. A small,dark space with a naked bulb and a floor carpeted with musty shoes. And I was seven or eight years old again.

The clothes that hung in that closet smelled of time and mothballs and most were rarely worn. The closet was actually a hideaway for Mom's canister vacuum- a greenish metal cylinder that sounded like a freight train. I can still see her pulling on the long hose and rolling it out for an afternoon of domestic chores.

And even though she hadn't worn it in years, there on the wooden pole hung my mother's fur coat. A shiny, brown, once-elegant and expensive mink that Mom wore in her younger days. A coat that I saw her wear in old photos- (her smile happier than any I had witnessed while she mopped or washed dishes.)

Sometimes I would open the little wooden door to the hall closet and pet Mom's coat. Slightly balding and a bit dusty, it still held that magic of a beautiful mother whose life was different before giving birth to nine children. The coat symbolized dreams that were now faded- days that were now gone- years that hung forgotten in the closet of her heart.
I would stretch my arm up into the coat- and rub the red satin lining that stayed cool and smooth in the darkness. It was a peaceful and soothing feeling to pretend that I was my mother and that coat belonged to me.

Inside that hallway also hung my dad's navy uniform, a black wool set of itchy pants and pull over top that once held medals and pins- awards that had long ago been plucked off and put away for safe keeping. The bell bottom pants had two rows of a dozen buttons and it stretched our imagination to the limits wondering how Dad could possibly have worn something so small.

I don't know what else was in that closet because nothing mattered except the past of my parents- of that odd, bittersweet twinge of loving sadness that crept through my veins as I stood with one arm in Mom's mink coat.

I can still feel that worn brass door knob in my hand- hear the sound of the pull chain light- smell the dampness of old leather shoes twisted in mildewed corners.

And I can still see my mom and dad- him as a dashing and handsome sailor- her as a blushing young bride... in a very special coat.

6 comments:

mybabyjohn said...

Lovely story and memories....When my mom and dads closet was cleaned out after they passed away we found two little ancient suitcases that must have held pretty much all their clothing at one point in time. The things we can't let go.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Your writing is always so vibrant! I can almost feel the soft fur and cool satin! Beautiful post, Miss Rae!

Joanne said...

what a heartfelt post! The way you described it...I was right there too! Blessings, Joanne

sisterlinda said...

I too remember that fur coat and Dad's navy uniform. Somehow I ended up with the "cool" bell bottoms with all the buttons, after all it was the 70's! I wore those things out and really don't remember what happened to them after they went out of style!

The hallway closet. It was a special place that held Mom's clothes and shoes.It held special memories for our Mom and now that closet holds special memories for us....in our hearts.

GAIL said...

I feel these thoughts and memories every time I take out old photos from days long gone. Mom always looked so happy and smiled in those photos..not knowing then that the future held 5 babies and the lonely later years of Alzhimers. She and dad also looked so happy in their early pics..smiles of youthful hope and great adventures. I often wonder if she was very happy as 4 of us kids were in diapers at the same time..a set of twins added to her burden I am sure. Then 5 years later came a sister.
If only we could share her stories of her life. They are now locked away in her own personal memory box. And she has lost the key.

Diann said...

What a fun memory post! I enjoyed our walk back in time! Have a wonderful day!