Tuesday, November 19, 2013


When I was 9, I had to leave the "new school" and spend my fourth grade year at the "old school". That's what we called them in Roswell. The old school (across town) had grades one through seven, but the new school only housed grades one through three. During my fourth grade year, however, they built on to it so I could return for the rest of my elementary years (through seventh grade). So I just had that one year at the old school.

Attending the old school was considered very cool. After all, that's where the big kids were. My brother went there and all his friends and the older girl across the street who had boyfriends and wore make-up. To me it was like a year at the Academy Awards...sneaking peeks at celebrities in hallways, watching them perform in chapel programs (yes, we had them every Wednesday), overhearing their chatter in the restrooms.

The year I was there, it was trendy for the girls to wear varsity jackets,  the kinds with leather sleeves that are supposed to display the letters you earned in athletics. Of course, being children, no one had earned a jacket or a letter. They bought them at Tolberts (not to be confused with Talbots which didn't exist back then). Adoration would not be too strong a word to describe how I felt watching the 12 year old safety patrols directing hall traffic in their green and white Roswell Hornet Hollywood splendor.

So when I had wiped the drool from my chin and popped my eyes back into my head, I begged my mother for a varsity jacket for my birthday the following August, the month before I went back to the new school. I distinctly remember the look of horror on her face (my mother had a tremendous sense of style) and hearing her ask my brother if it was true, that this was really fashionable for girls my age. He concurred (for which I will forever be indebted to him) and on August 18, 1964 (and all the days after) I could be seen savoring the leathery smell and clickety snaps of the most beloved piece of outerwear I have ever owned.

I could go on recounting stories of showing off my jacket throughout the year (and the torture of not being able to wear it right away in August).  I'm sure I was obnoxious to some, but envied by most. It was glorious!  Now I was the one on the red carpet, having my photo snapped, anticipating my Oscar for Most Gorgeously Dressed Girl At The New School.  I just loved that feeling.

In Florida we don't wear coats much. I bought a bulky, all weather type thing several years ago for the occasional days I would need it. I wore it every single day in Alaska (because it was cold every single day!) I was known in the native village as She Who Walks In A Winter Coat Even In The Summer. I'm not kidding! I wore that coat out and got teased for wearing it.

So I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a new coat. I know I'll be wearing it a long time so I have a check list in my mind: Not too heavy, can be worn with jeans or a dress, neutral color, affordable but not cheap, classic style but definitely not plain.

I was in Roswell yet again this past week. Morris' CAT and PET scans showed no signs of active tumors. He is going on a maintenance chemo schedule.  My brother's father-in-law, who was in so much distress, passed away and his wife is living peacefully and contentedly in a very nice ALF near the family. My mother is thinking seriously about moving there also, to relieve her anxiety and simplify her life and the lives of her caregivers.

The family is daring to exhale for the moment, a little reprieve from the chaos that plagued them all summer. We played cards, my mother shopped for new glasses, Morris went for groceries. Normalcy.

And, at a little vintage style boutique that just opened downtown, I found the perfect coat.  It's perfectly me and I'm so happy of myself for finding it.  It made me think of the varsity jacket and the exuberance of my youth. But it didn't exactly recapture the feeling. Sometimes I wish I could go all the way back to those innocent days but alas, childhood is over and, as William Wordsworth so wisely observed, "nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower" (or in my case, clothes euphoria)..."but we will grieve not". For now, normalcy is enough (and something to keep me warm).