Sunday, December 10, 2006

Coat-aholics

I really need to get rid of some coats. Between Mom and I, and a few residual coats John left here, we have not seen the individual hooks on the hall tree for years. I had Brenda order this hall tree from a guy at her factory who makes them as a sideline. It is made of oak and has two hooks on each of the four sides - a total of eight hooks. I envisioned how convenient it would be if Mom, John and I could simply pluck our coat from a hook on the hall tree instead of having to dig around in the coat closet.

The reality is that it is much more difficult to find your coat on the hall tree than it is in the closet because each hook holds two or three or four coats. The hall tree now appears as a gigantic mound of outer garments. Spray it green and it would seem that I had physically moved one of the smaller Appalachian mountains directly into my dining room. You can see almost nothing of the actual structure except for the very bottom.

It now takes actual skill to place your coat on the hall tree in such a way that it doesn't slide immediately onto the floor because it is being set over several other coats so that there is really no defined hook any more. You have to sort of tent it over the other garments hanging there. Sometimes you skip the hooks and simply float it over the top of the entire pile. Over the years, Mom and I have mastered this technique to a T.

The over-abundance of coats, jackets and vests hanging on the hall tree make it extremely difficult to find the actual coat you are looking for. Say you want your black jacket with the fur collar. You first bury you head into the pile of coats, looking for some tell-tale sign of the one you want to wear. Possibly you spy a black sleeve that you believe is part of that particular coat. You then grasp the sleeve and follow it through the stack to where the main body of the coat is located. You note that this particular coat has 12 other coats hanging on top of it. You now have two choices: 1) you can decide, "the heck with it" and abandon that coat in favor of one that is closer to the top or 2) you can persevere in trying to extricate the black jacket. This will mostly likely mean that approximately 47 coats will all fall to the floor, the ones above this one as well as those on either side, which are so precariously balanced that a butterfly could drift past and cause a coat avalanche.

You might wonder why we have such an abnormally large number of coats. After all, we are poor people, not rich fashionistas like Paris Hilton. There are two reasons:

First, Mom is a garage-saler. No matter how many coats we currently have, if she finds a practically brand-new London Fog for $3, she can no more pass up that bargain than an alcoholic could pass up a free beer.

The second reason we have such an abundance of outerwear is my forgetfulness and/or bad weather luck. Invariably, when Brenda and I take one of our mini-trips, I forget to take a coat or jacket. Perhaps, it is in the heat of summer and I think a jacket isn't even necessary. But I guarantee you that if I leave home without a coat, an unseasonable cold spell will strike wherever I am at. I went to Las Vegas once and nearly froze to death until I broke down and bought a white knit jacket with "I (heart) Las Vegas" across the back. At that point, the temperatures dropped even more and I nearly froze to death until I bought furry blue jacket with LAS VEGAS across the back. (It is almost impossible to buy a piece of apparel in Las Vegas on which the city's name does not appear). Naturally, after I bought not one, but two coats, Las Vegas resumed its normal pressure-cooker temperatures.

I forgot to take a coat when Brenda and I went to Lake Erie in April. It was warm and beautiful here in Wabash but at Lake Erie, February had set in to stay while. It wasn't long before I was shivering and Brenda and I hit the strip mall where I bought a pink and gray reversible coat - and then, well, we found these darling white jackets with all the Lake Erie Islands printed on them in red and we just had to have one. I resisted because I'd just spent money on a coat but Brenda bought it for me as an early Birthday present or maybe it was a late Christmas present.

When Brenda and I met LeAnn in Iowa and decided to take a ride on a riverboat down the Mississippi, you could tell it was going to be chilly out on the river - so I had to purchase a jacket prior to going or I knew I could never enjoy the view.

Anyway, I could go on but I won't. I've told you enough to explain the stuffed closet and the hall tree volcano that erupts with coats in all materials, shapes and colors, until lava-like, they ooze down onto the floor periodically. Sometimes when this happens and you are picking them back up, you find a garment that was on the bottom that you forgot you even had, which can be pretty exciting.

Occasionally, either Mom or I will make the comment that we should go through the coats and get rid of some of them. The other one will nod vaguely, saying, "mm-hmm," and that's pretty much the end of that for another year or so. In the meantime, the coats keep coming.