During the 1950’s Mama saved up from her stock clerk job at a big department store in N.Y. When she had enough money, she purchased a mouton* coat. It was beautiful heavy, capable of withstanding New York winters and probably would do just fine in Alaska. It hada rich warm brown color, lined, with a high collar that covered her ears and wide sleeves almost like the sleeves on a kimono except the lining wrapped around her wrist to keep out the cold. It wasn’t a mink, or a sable, Mama couldn’t afford either, but she looked fantastic in her mouton. She only wore it to church and on special occasions likewhen Daddy took her out for a night of dancing at the Savoy Ballroom. For a long time, we kids didn’t know what a mouton was or even how to spell it. All we knew was that it was some sort of fur coat and that Mama loved it.
When Mama died, my brother inherited her mouton along with the house and whatever items his siblings left when we struck out on our own. His wife buried it deep in the basement behind boxes and there it languished until one time when I returned for a visit. She hurriedly retrieved the coat and thrust it into my arms. “Here, get this thing out of here!” she said. It frightened her, made her feeluneasy. I didn’t ask the reason. I hauled the heavy coat back to California and putit in my closet. Each time I moved from one apartment to another, from one town to another, I carried Mama’s mouton and put it in the back of my closet. Every once in a while, I take it out, try it on and think perhaps I’ll have it shortened, have it made into a jacket. I’ll have to do it soon becausethe moths have begun their attack. Even knowing that I’ll probably never have a reason to wear it unless I take a trip to New York in the winter or to Alaska or Siberia, I treasure Mama’s mouton and cannot see myself giving it away, tossing it, or trying to sell it on ebay. It’s the same with Mama’s dishes, but that’s another story. Some things are difficult to part with whether or not they are of use.
*A mouton is sheepskin sheared and processed to look like beaver or seal.