APRIL 2013: After 17 years, the call was inevitable. My son and his wife, with a baby on the way, had moved into a new home. Space was a premium.
“Mom, we don’t have room for all your coats anymore. Which one do you want us to keep for you?” he said.
“The red one. Please, keep the red one,” I requested.
I frequently wear the red, wool, three-quarter length coat during visits back home/up north. That one doesn’t take up much space.
“But please don’t get rid of the other two right now, especially The Grape,” I pleaded.
“Can’t we donate them?” he asked.
“No. I’ll do it,” I promised, starting to panic a little. “Give me time. I’ll get back to you.”
I immediately called my brother, begging him to stash the coats in some corner until I got there in two months and could deal with the situation. Is it OK for my son to drop them off?
Not only did he agree, but my brother offered to store the coats indefinitely in a closet in his photo studio, where he had plenty of room.
“I just saved The Grape—again!” I bubbled in a return call to my son. He groaned. Although I couldn’t see them, I swear his eyes rolled.
The Grape saga
Knowing I would visit Pennsylvania often when I moved to Florida in 1996, I left two coats (I acquired the red one later) at my mother’s house. Lots of space there. After she moved into assisted living and we sold our family home in 2007, my son stored my coats. He moved twice since then, lugging the coats with him and hanging them out of the way for my visits.
Both of those coats are big. And heavy. I have worn the long, wool, dressy periwinkle blue coat on special occasions, including to Mom’s funeral Mass last year.
To be honest, I have never worn The Grape since I moved south. Even when I was freezing, my blood thinned by Florida’s warmth, The Grape just seemed too, well, bulky and embarrassing. Like a sleeping bag with arms. But I couldn’t part with it.
As happens, certain items of clothing become our favorites and we cherish them, long after they are stylish. The Grape is a mid-calf, puffy, reversible, down coat—one side purple, the other blue. I wore it often and must have favored the purple side, thus its nickname, bestowed by a fellow reporter in the newsroom where we worked.
Last year, I began to accept that I might never wear The Grape again, seeing that I hadn’t in 17 winters. Not quite ready to bequeath it but feeling particularly sentimental, I offered it to my 14-year-old granddaughter. By then, she was taller than I was. It would fit her. She would be thrilled. Wrong. “Ugh! Granni! No!” she muttered. “But thanks.” We all, including my son, convulsed laughing. Admittedly, my feelings were a little hurt. Mainly for The Grape.
Fine, then. My super-hip niece who attended college in Massachusetts—where it’s really cold—would adore The retro Grape, I was positive. “Uh, no thanks, Aunt Lorrie,” she said as tenderly as possible.
By now somewhat desperate for The Grape’s useful future as near to me as possible, I offered it to each of my three sisters-in-law, all of whom live in cold climates. Honestly, I was stunned that they declined. Their loss. My dilemma.
Another year of storage for The Grape.
Reunited with The Grape
Niece Courtney gamely models my other cherished coat as I relish wearing The Grape again in Pennsylvania.
JUNE 2013: Back in Pennsylvania for a family visit, a priority was stopping by my brother’s studio to check out my coats. It would serve me right if The Grape was eaten by moths or full of rats’ nests for not donating it to someone who could have been using it for nearly 20 winters, I thought on the ride there. A lot of good it did me being packed away and hoarded for sentimentality. My family doesn’t want it and I don’t wear it. For sure, I will donate it now. Maybe to the local summer stock theater. Or Salvation Army. Or the homeless shelter.
Pulling The Grape out of the closet, I felt how cumbersome it is through the plastic garment bag. Must get rid of this thing now. Why have I been hanging on to it? How stupid! But when I slipped it out of the bag, I fell in love with it again. No moths. No rats. Not even a cobweb. And when I slipped it on, I was hooked. I swear it hugged me back. The Grape was just as fabulous as I remembered … and I knew I couldn’t part with it. Not yet. I will wear it. I think.
For me, Christmas is Pennsylvania is pretty certain. Let it snow!