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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Carol's Coat~~

Hoag Family reunion, 1971
L. to R., Abby, Carol and Deborah Waldron

My mother-in-law, Carol, was a strong New England woman, one who was born and died in her home state of Massachusetts. She was taller and broader than me, had a powerful presence, softened by short brown curls and a ready smile. Back in the early 1970's, in between a full time job and starting the first NOW chapter in Lexington, she bought a fine Woolrich(c) coat, teal colored twill with a tan-and-white wool lining.

A few years passed. Carol grew wider as folks tend to do in these United States, and the coat was handed to her youngest daughter, Abby, now married and a timber framer. That's her on the left. It probably never really fit Abby, except perhaps across the shoulders. Still, it was serviceable for a rough New Hampshire winter. The good twill broke the wind and the liner created an Indian blanket warmth. Like all coats of this period, it was unwieldy. After putting it on, you felt lumbering and bear-like. 

There was a hood, too, but by the time I inherited the coat, the string was gone. In deep cold or high wind, however, the big hood could still be pulled over a scarf for a second line of defense. You might look like the Abominable Snowman, but in my now senior world, so what?

The coat is a keeper. It's worn weekly all through winter. Like any article of clothing that has been in use for so long, it shows it's age. For one thing, there's a dab of yellow house paint on one pocket, now hopelessly sunk into the twill. That, and a little hole on that same pocket, might suggest a thrift store source when viewed in cold, unforgiving daylight.

At Christmas time, an old coat probably seems like a weird topic, but there's a part of me that, though descended from a long line of upstate New York farmers, is pure Yankee at heart. In the midst of so much consumption--and so much compulsion to consume, pounding on the psyche from every side--there's a part of me that's stubbornly resistant. I remember my much loved and frugal Grandfather, and the rhyme he recited to me long ago.

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make Do
Or do without."

In later years, I'd hear it again, now repeated among my husband's New England relatives.

There is another narrative though, beyond the warts-and-all-virtue, but a memory of the two other bodies who have sheltered inside this old coat. One is a sister-in-law who has become a sister, and my formidable mother-in-law, now departed to the other side.  

This wool and twill bears memories. It's not just "an old coat."

Carol, Springfield, MA HS Graduation, 1943

~~Juliet Waldron

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