Monday, February 20, 2012

WINTER HAND ME DOWNS

Being the first born son in a family with two older sisters, I did not have to deal with the institution of hand me down clothes very often.  I would wager to say I didn't have to deal with them at all.  If I had I may have ended up even more mentally damaged than I ended up being now.  I would have worn plaid dresses or culottes along with blouses that buttoned on the wrong side with puffy sleeves.  Instead of my KEDS tennis shoes I would have worn white and black saddle oxfords through my growing up years.  Pink shorts instead of blue jeans from J.C. Penney definitely would have made an impact on how I saw myself.  As bad fitting and stiff as those blue jeans were, they still would have been better than pink shorts.

As I grew older though I did have a small chance for hand me downs.  Occasionally I would get a coat or a jacket or something else that could fit easily from my dad to me.  This would not include jeans or slacks because I was built very differently from my father during those years.  I was taller and much thinner than dad.  I do believe I got a couple of shirts from him but that would be about it.

The first hand me down I got from dad was actually a "I am going to borrow this and forget to give it back" hand me down.  My dad had two or three wool stocking caps.  They were black or dark navy blue.  While they were a little itchy to wear, they were warm over the ears.  The stocking cap I borrowed was not one of his good ones.  It had a hole close to the edge of it and most of the elasticity had long left.  Still it was warm and felt right on my head.  I could roll it up so it was over my ears if I needed to.  That was how dad usually wore his caps.  Or I could tug it down tight on my head and that nice tightly woven wool would be as warm as one could expect a cap to be.  No air would pass through that thing.  I fell in love with it and when I left home after getting married, the hat found its way in with my belongings and went with me.  Perhaps I should have felt bad about it, but the way I saw it, dad had a couple of more of these stocking caps and missing the one with the small hole in it shouldn't bother him too much.  It was after all, something to keep his son's ears from aching in the cold winds that sweep through the plains during the winter.

The other thing I was handed down was not a piece of clothing but my dad's old chair.  It was such a comfortable chair.  I found that my body fit into it perfectly.  If dad was not home,  I was sitting in the chair, unless of course I was in trouble and sitting on the bottom step of the stairway.  When mom and dad decided to get new furniture, they were going to throw the old chair out.  The legs were loose on it and the upholstery was not very good.  You could sit in that chair and it would feel like the legs could fall out from under it at any time.  I took it anyway for the comfort it provided me and perhaps for a little bit of home that I would be reminded of every time I sat in it.

The next major chance for getting hand me downs came from my uncle.  He had lived away from home for most of his adult life, living in Washington D.C., Chicago and then the Seattle area before moving back to Kansas City to spend his remaining days on this earth.  When his partner died, may uncle didn't know what to do with a lot of the stuff left behind.  I got some very nice shoes that happened to fit me and a few other things, but there was one very special item that was offered to me.  It was a coat.  When I first saw the coat my first impression was that it was green.  I hate the color green.  Green is my mother's favorite color and I lived with so much green in my life I could hardly stand to look outside in the summer time.  Green was awful.  Green was the color of puke.  Green was the color of a runny nose.  Green was simply awful.

I then tried on the coat to see how it fit.  The fit was perfect.  Perfect arm length, perfect room for arms to slide in and out of.  It was a very soft coat as well.  It was made out of cotton with a down lining in it.  I could move my arms as though I wasn't even wearing a heavy coat.  It was so comfortable that I was able to overlook the color of the coat and take it anyway.  I knew right then that this would be the most comfortable coat I had ever worn.

When the next winter came and the temperatures began to drop and the cold started hanging around every day, I reached in the closet for that comfortable green coat to wear while I shoveled some snow.  It became immediately clear that this was not only the most comfortable coat I had ever worn, it was also the warmest coat.  It had been bought originally to withstand Chicago winters which are much worse than Kansas City winters.  This coat was the coat I had been waiting my whole life for.  I had tried Corduroy coats which were somewhat warm but very stiff to move around in.  They were not comfortable at all and while the warmth factor was good they didn't compare to the green coat.  I had tried man made materials of coats such as nylon and rayon and the such.  They were not as stiff as the corduroy coats but not as warm either.  The main thing that irritated me about these coats was the sound they made ever time you moved in them.  That screeching swishing sound that you had to stop moving before you could talk while wearing it.

I noticed then that the green coat had literally hundreds of pockets.  Some were big and others were a little smaller and every once in a while you would come upon a pocket very small, perfect for carrying keys or other items that you didn't want to get lost.  I was in love with the green coat and it became, with my dad's wool stocking cap, my winter hand me down wardrobe.

I took that cap from my dad about thirty five years ago.  I am guessing it was about ten years old at the time making it approximately forty five years old.  I still wear it.  It is just as warm and comfortable and itchy as it was when I first got it.  It is my go to hat whenever it gets cold outside.

The chair is about sixty years old.  The legs on it still wiggle and they still feel like they could come off at any time.  MY wife made a cover for it to hide the old upholstery on it and I sit on that chair every day still.  It is so comfortable that if I am not home, my dog Dutch sits in the old chair.  It still fits my body well and I think still brings a little of a childhood home into my life.  It is kind of like comfort food.  It just feels right, it feels good.

As for the green coat, well time has taken a toll on it.  It was twenty years old when I got it and I have had it for almost twenty years.  It is old and it is showing signs of age.  Some of the material in the seams is starting to wear out.  There are places where it got snagged on a fence while I was jumping over to get a rouge baseball.  Actually, to be perfectly honest, it looks pretty ragged.  I have had people tell me that I should get a new coat.  I have been threatened with being given a new coat for Christmas or my birthday.  That would be a grave mistake.  I have seen homeless people with better looking coats than my green one and that is fine.  I'll stick with the green coat thank you very much.    It is about the only thing that is green that I own.  I put that green coat on my back almost anytime it drops below freezing.  Sometimes I wear it when it is really too warm to be wearing it and it warms me up more.  The pockets all still work in it and I am fairly sure I still discover a new pocket every year that I have the coat.  The old wool cap has a permanent home in one of those pockets.

I have no plans to discard the old green coat.  I plan on wearing it into my last winter before I die.  As a matter of fact I have made some decisions on what is to happen to these winter hand me downs.  I want to be buried or cremated in the wool cap and the green coat.  I don't see how any one else could or would appreciate these two pieces of winter clothing the way I have over the years.  When I go, they go with me.

As for the chair, I leave distribution of that to whoever is taking care of my estate whether it be my wife or my son.  They can bury me sitting in it or cremate it along with me, the wool cap and the green coat.  The other possibility is finding someone who would appreciate it for the fine piece of furniture that it is.  I think that it may be difficult to find someone who appreciates the old chair for what it has been through.  That chair helped raise four kids, a daughter in law and a grandson not to mention numerous dogs that found it more than good enough for a bed on which to nap.  Perhaps a small bonfire using the chair the evening of my funeral while friends and family gather to talk about what a grumpy old man I had become and how they simply could NOT believe I was buried in that old green coat and a old wool stocking cap   At least with this writing, they will know where that coat and cap came from and why I was so attached to them even into death.

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