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.
Posted by Rae Frazier