When I moved to Washington, DC, in 1989, from Alabama, I begged my frugal, depression-era mother to purchase this amazing, modern, dark navy blue wool coat that hits about mid-calf. I was starting a journalism internship at the National Journalism Center and would be in the metro area until mid-December.
The coat was from The Limited and they had layaway, if I recall correctly. It was hot as hell that summer, like it normally is in southern Alabama, and putting a coat on layaway, especially one this intense, seemed silly. But I knew I would need it for the fall internship in DC. I had a thinner car coat, which was normally sufficient in an Alabama winter where we might end up wearing shorts on Christmas Day. In 1989 in Washington, DC., it snowed that Thanksgiving. I remember because my sister, who lived in Maryland, picked me up that Wednesday and we drove to her home as the snow accumulated.
We were a single paycheck family, I was the last of five and $200 was a lot of money. My father, as you may recall, served in the US Army as an enlisted GI. My mother was a homemaker and grew up in The Great Depression. In our home, there was a difference between necessity and luxury; between desire and need. After much negotiation on my part, she finally agreed.
Twenty-five years later, through weight gain and losses, pregnancies, five homes and three dogs, I still have this coat. I asked a tailor to replace the lining and added white alpaca fur around the collar and sleeves a few years ago just to give it a different look. The coat is in excellent shape and my parents definitely got their $200 out of it. In fact, it cost my parents roughly $8 annually for me to wear this coat since then.
On days when we experience frigid weather, especially as we have this week in the DC area, I am extremely grateful that I still have this coat. Maybe that’s why I still hang it in my closet. Aside from the fact that it’s still useful, my parents made a sacrifice for me, as they did often.
Paired with a pair of knee-high leather boots and the memory of my my mother’s love, it’s all I need to stay warm.