Saturday, October 13, 2012


Once upon a time I was too poor to buy a winter coat.  It was the early 1980's (yes, even then some of us did not benefit from 'trickle down economics'),  and I was living with my boyfriend Ben in a cottage on Billington Sea Road in Plymouth Massachusetts. Our cottage was very cold. So I decided I'd make a winter cloak.  I purchased several yards of navy blue wool and some red satin lining.  Then I sat on our hand-me-down love seat, surrounded by cats, and I cut out the fabric and sewed my cloak by hand.

The garment was a classic, and I have it to this day.  I came across it again this evening while opening the hall closet to take out a jacket and walk the dogs.  And there was my cloak, slipped from its hanger, lying on the floor amongst the boots.

I cannot bring myself to give this cloak away because it holds too many memories.

For instance, not only did this cloak keep me warm that cold New England winter, but I wore it when Ben and I went to the UK, on a trip given to us by his parents.  I wore it to the pub, and on our walk through Bushy Park (where I had frequently played as a child). I wore it to the Barbican Theatre where in the lobby I came face to face with Dustin Hoffman.

I remember thinking I was looking my best (because the cloak was particularly stylish that year. Meryl Streep had worn such a cloak in the film adaptation of John Fowles' French Lieutenant's Woman.) When I locked eyes with Dustin Hoffman I read his intention: Please don't recognize me; keep up the pretense of  my anonymity. But at the same time I was feeling quite pretty, and certain he would recognize this, even though I was truly the anonymous one.

For several years of my marriage to Ben, into his foreign service career, this cloak came along but never was worn. It hung in closets in Caracas and in Buenos Aires.  Then, suddenly, it had a rebirth as a Halloween costume. Our daughter Rozzie aged seven, wore it in Moscow, with her teeth blacked out, (although come to think of it, at seven she was losing teeth anyway, which added to the effect)~ as she went trick or treating on the American Embassy compound.  Then again it was worn by Alex and I think by Elliot too, for various costume parties and Halloween events.  It has remained a staple of the costume department in our home, for the last twenty years.

But once it was absolutely serious. Once I wore it in earnest.

Now it's in the hallway closet, ignored.  I spotted it this evening, only because it had slipped to the floor and was slumped round the boots.

Here it is again,  adorning one of my sculptures.
When I examine the stitching, so carefully sewn, the toggled clasps I fixed onto the front, I see that I made it to last as well as to keep me warm.  It attests to my sense of style even while I had no money. I like to remember that sense of style about my twenty something year old self. That's why I keep this cloak, I suppose, and why I cannot let it go.

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