Passing along the coat...

A winter's tale

Story and art by Mo Conlan

A long time ago, when women thought that mink coats were glamorous, I bought myself one. I now know that I should have put that money into an IRA and bought a faux fur coat.

I am not particularly a shopper or clothes horse. I am not rich. What I was that winter was cold.

My usually temperate city was in the deep freeze. The streets iced over. The river froze. The key to my VW bug broke off in the door lock. I couldn’t get warm.

Huddled under a blanket on the couch reading the paper, I noticed an ad, half off fur coats. There is nothing warmer than a full-length fur coat. I knew this from secretly playing dress-ups with my grandmother’s when I was little.

One of the furs pictured took my breath away – like a costume from the movie “Dr. Zhivago.” (Russians know their fur coats.)

I raced downtown to the department store to try it on. The dark mink coat reached to just a few inches above my ankles. The long sleeves and front were trimmed with an extra ruff of so-soft fur. I was enveloped top to bottom in silky warmth. Such warmth!

I felt like a movie star or a queen.

Yes, it was expensive, but, as mink coats go, it also seemed a bargain at half price. I had to wait while they sewed my monogram into the silk lining.

I wore that coat everywhere that winter.

“What did you do to earn that,” a colleague at my work asked, archly.

“Earned the money and bought it,” I shot back.

The coat did lose me a fiancé. At a dinner party, a male friend remarked on how great I’d looked in my mink at a company party. I’d taken him as an escort instead of my fiancé. In my defense, my male friend is gay, and my fiance didn’t like those kind of “dos.” That guy was all wrong for me anyway, so the coat and my friend did me a favor.

Over time, the winters in my hometown became less severe. Fur coats went out of fashion and became “politically incorrect.” I wore a nondescript car coat to work. Once in awhile, though, I would trot out and wear the fur – it always brought back that feeling of glamour and of being, really really warm.

This past November, I drove to Chicago to spend a few weeks with my daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. My daughter has adopted Chicago-land as her home city -- with gusto. There is the matter of the winters, though, and she suffers from the cold -- icicle hands and feet until spring.

As I prepared to get on the road, I reached into the closet for my winter jacket. My hand brushed against the fur coat – as silky and warm as the day I had bought it. I put it into a big plastic garbage bag and took it with me.

When I arrived in Chicago, I handed out little gifts I'd brought – 3-D bookmarks for the kids, a wine bottle “vest” for my son-in-law.

“Something I am passing along,” I said to my daughter, handing her the plastic bag. The black fur began oozing out. She gathered it up and put it on. The coat fit as if made for her, accenting her tall, willowy figure and lustrous chestnut hair.

The children and my son-in-law stared, dazzled. She looked like a queen. She looked like a movie star.

“I feel so warm,” she said.

“You can tell people it’s faux fur,” I said, concerned a moment about “fur” issues.

She shook her head and danced around the room in her new old coat.

"Lots of people here wear fur. It’s so darn cold.”

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