Not long after Aunt Ellie’s funeral, Cousin Katie brought her faded, old plum-colored coat to Mama. “Mr. Blizzard bought this for Aunt Ellie years ago. The material is real good. It won’t fit me. Do you want to make it over for one of your girls?
“I sure do. The cuffs on Kathleen’s coat are over her wrists. I ‘ve been trying to figure out how I could come up with some heavy material. This should do good, if you’re sure you can’t use it.”
That caught my attention. I hated that camphor-smelling old coat. I’d seen skinny, old Aunt Ellie wrapped up head to ankles in that faded old coat, puttering around in the yard or sitting wrapped in it next to the stove on cold days. The front was spotted and the cuffs slick with age and wear. I imagined myself creeping around in that worn-out coat, looking just like Aunt Ellie, my white hair wound in a wild bun, like Aunt Ellie’s. A string of mean kids would be following me, pointing and laughing at the poor, pitiful kid in the raggedy, old dead-lady coat.
“Mama, I don’t want Aunt Ellie’s old coat. The kids at school will laugh at me for wearing an old dead-lady’s coat.”
“Now Kathleen, this material is too good to throw away, and you need a coat. That’s all there is to it. When I’m through making it over, nobody will ever know it’s not ordered from Sears and Roebuck.” She immediately pulled out the catalog to have me choose a style so she could cut a pattern. Glumly. I pointed a coat out, knowing I was defeated.
I pushed the coat from my mind, though periodically, I’d come through to find Mama cutting the fabric, brushing it with cleaning fluid. Though I had no interest in the process, she later told me she cut the coat apart, turned it, cleaned and reblocked, before finally pinning on her custom fitted pattern. Truly, the reverse side of the fabric was a rich rose. Stitching it and the freshly cleaned lining together, Mama polished it off with a new collar. New buttons completed her masterpiece. It looked nothing like Aunt Ellies’s faded old coat. No one would ever recognize it!
I hated it! Mama made me put it on and model it for her and Daddy. I knew better than to complain. On the first cold day, Mama made sure I wore my new, old coat. Ashamed, I rushed to hang it in the cloak room as soon as I got to school. At recess, I hung behind to put my coat on, hoping no one would remark on it. I hid around the corner, hoping to avoid humiliation. At lunch, Berenice and Christine admired my coat in passing, before moving on to a more interesting subject. I was pleased but almost disappointed after I’d thought it so ugly. In truth, it was a very nice coat, cut in a stylish pattern, but you’d never have convinced me. The whole time I wore that hateful coat, I kept waiting for my shameful secret to be discovered.