Monday, October 27, 2008

The Little Things

Today was the first truly cold day of the fall season. Not cool, not even chilly. Cold.

When we left the house at 6:55 this morning (so proud, as we woke up at 6:15 although this obviously indicates our lack of showering) the weather was a frosty 34 degrees.

I've been waiting for the weather to turn balmy and breezy, and it seems that instead we just went from hot to cold. With no more than a week of lovely 'jeans and hoodie' weather, we are now thrown upon the frigid fires of scarf season.

Still, in comparison to Canada or the heart of my ex-boyfriend, it isn't bad.

I was born during a blizzard, and though I thankfully don't remember that day, I do think that it gives me some right to be interested in the weather. I was also born at 3 in the afternoon, which is a clear indication that I prefer to start my day late.

My preference for NOT being awake in the early morning might have been why, I, sleepy-eyed and frantic, grabbed the first coat my hand found in the darkened closet.

I was glad that it was indeed my coat, and not Sabra's. (sings Fat Guy In A Little Coat and thinks of Richard)

But as I slipped into the lovely soft lining of My Favorite Coat, I was surprised.

I used to live in Phoenix, where coats are not necessary. For most of the year, a lovely hoodie (truly, I love them) will keep you warm enough. Lightweight coats are all I owned for several years, and there was truly no need of a scarf or gloves, mittens or sweaters. I tried for several years to wear these types of garments, but inevitably would have to strip said sweater from my too-warm person as the day lengthened.

What I loved/hated about the valley of the sun is that nobody dresses up. Mostly this was a good thing. I had had enough with the hoards of children who wore their ruffly bejingled and monogrammed best to school every day. I was quite happy to be surrounded by other people who just wanted to be laidback. Conversely, I was rather irritated when the barbarians didn't want to wear a dress to their own wedding. All of this doesn't really matter, except to say that I became Roman. As in, 'when in Rome'...

I rarely dressed up. Dressed down and warm weather indicates zero need for a dress coat.

Fast forward a bit.....I'm back in gets a bit nippy.....people dress up to go to the grocery store.....I like fitting in.....I would jump off a cliff if everyone else did....not really....but I did want a dressy coat.

Alas, have you priced those things? Yikes. Even Target versions were waaaay out of my range. So I bundled up in my Trusty Brown Corduroy Jacket that makes me look as if deodorant is an option rather than a necessity. Warm, comfy, no problem. Life was good. After all, you wear the coat to whatever location to which you are headed and then promptly take it off. I just needed to stay warm, not to impress. That is what my sparkling personality is for.

So last year, my sister and I were perusing the sale at Banana Republic. They have crazy good sales, and their clothes last longer than cockroaches in a nuclear blast. While looking through cashmere t-shirts (why? I just don't get it) and pants with very very high waists that nobody should wear, I found Happiness.

Long, but not too long. Warm, but not too warm. Dressy, but not too dressy. Camel colored, soft, lined with buttery silk.


So I did what any girl would do. I told my mom.

My parents are interesting. I guess all parents are. But I find it funny how their ears prick up at certain words. Without fail, if I mention these words, magic happens.

My mom's words are: shoe, coat, underwear, food, sheets, heating pad. (Also shame but that is another story) These words ignite within her some sort of crazed maternal providing instinct, and I swear she would rip a stranger's coat off his back to clothe her grandchild in it. I could be without a single pair of pants and she might not notice. But drop a hint that I need sheets, and SHE IS ON IT!

My dad's words are: book, education, family dinnertime, saint, C.S. Lewis, foreign language. Say these words, and he will emerge from whatever mental or physical fog he currently inhabits. I could be yet again without pants and he would probably not notice. But if I just whisper that I need more information about the mating habits of monarch butterflies in the fourteenth century, and HE IS ON IT!

So, as I was saying, I did what any girl would do. I told my mom about the coat. I described it lovingly, down to the last creamy button. I also remembered to mention what a crazy good deal it was (on sale!) and how sophisticated I would look in something that didn't conjure up images of K.D. Lang.

What a good mom...she bought it for my birthday. T'was a surprise, actually. But as I said, it is one of her magic words.

I wore the coat happily and thankfully, and also warmly. But never did I make A Memory with the coat until I packed it in a suitcase and took it to London.

I almost didn't take a coat. I know. Beyond stupid. But I did take it, and still almost froze my euros off.

I wore it every day, and all of my pictures attest to this fact. I needn't have brought different clothes for every day. Nobody would have known if I wore the same jeans and shirt all around Paris, because I was always covered by the coat.

The coat's lovely soft fabric touched the wet stones of The Tower. The color of taupe surrounded me as I ate a pasty and strolled by Buckingham. Versailles was just plan frigid, and I retreated into my lovely warm coat haven like a turtle into its shell.

Needless to say, after all those tube rides and pubs, the coat was rather dirty. When I came home, I put it in a 'goes to the dry cleaner' pile.

And thus, (you've earned it, you've read a ton of worthless information) my surprise to have pulled out and donned this particular coat on this cold day.

I'm quite sure that there is some clotted cream on the upper left collar, and if I push my nose into the fabric long enough, I can smell a scone and hear the screech and whoosh of the tube as it approaches.

But this morning there wasn't really time for remembering. Smiling to myself and thinking of friends, I stuffed my hands quickly into my pockets and ran to the car.

I pulled out a slip of paper.

It said:

Starbucks Le Louvre
34, Quai du Grand Louvre

1 muffin caramel 2,80
1 skinny blueberry 2,80
1 semaine 3,00
1 the 3,00

Total 11,60

Merci de votre visite!

And I smiled. I smiled so big and so wide that my eyes lifted, and with them my heart.

I might have never remembered that my sister and I walked into Starbucks, almost weeping from exhaustion. We had just seen some of the greatest works of art, and we were overcome with emotion, fatigue, and hunger. Everything was closed, save this little beacon of the Seattle Siren. It wasn't particularly memorable, this blueberry muffin and tea. It was a very small part of something, that was for me, very big. The very regular breakfast pastry was nothing compared to seeing the real Mona Lisa.

And yet...I was so delighted to hold this scrap of paper, and with it, memory.

Sometimes it really is the small things that help us remember the grand. A piece of paper told of a cup of coffee purchased for a travel-worn sister...and reminded me of an unforgettable day.

Likewise, my coat pockets remind me that I am warm....and that I have a mom who cares about me.

The coffee stop was not the trip, and the coat is not my mom.

But when I forget how great the trip was, and how caring is my parent, the little things remind me.

And with that, I leave you. I'm going to lick the clotted cream from my coat.


palmahome said...


Eric and Darcy said...

I really liked this post. Isn't it funny what the littlest things represent to us?