The Lost Winter Coat

IMG_2447I couldn’t find my winter coat. The weather had turned unexpectedly chilly and we were going out that night. I wanted to be warm, but I couldn’t find my winter coat.

I looked in the closet in the guest room. I looked in the closet of the ‘room that grows toys’. I even found a flashlight and took everything out of the ‘closet of no return’. Whew, that was scary.

“How could I lose two winter coats?” I demanded. “I mean, they aren’t small.”

I looked in the closet in the motor-home but it wasn’t there either.

I distinctly remember taking them out of the downstairs closet. I fumed and realized…I did something with them.

My husband shuddered. Those are the infamous words of doom at our house. Whenever I say…”I know, I put that somewhere…” the whole family knows, that item is lost forever.

I thought about going out and buying a new coat, an idea that was very appealing. That’s what I frequently do when I lose something.

“That’s why our house is filled with stuff!” my husband exclaimed.

“A winter coat really shouldn’t be hard to find” I thought to myself. I knew it wasn’t in the downstairs closet behind my husband’s computer desk. I never, ever go anywhere near that closet. It could be in the ugly green storage bench on the sunporch, I thought, but I’ll only look there as a last resort. After all, I’d have to move all the stuff that is sitting on it.

“We really have to clean this house.” my husband said.

“Someday.” I nod. “Someday, I will go through the junk.”

I always think it won’t get worse. After all, our kids left home, so we should have lots of room…but…

Aunt Ellen died, and we thought we might want her lovely sturdy card table. And her antique set of drawers. Sometimes you want a tangible memory. You want to value the things that the people you loved valued. Now we have a front porch with my love’s parent’s dining room sideboard, my aunt’s small bureau and large bureau. We can’t get at any of them because that lovely sturdy card table blocks them.

“Can’t we are least put them down cellar?” I ask.

“I’m going to put them on FreeCycle.” my husband replies.


“You keep volunteering to babysit, and leaving me with the kids. And I’ve got paying customers. And…” my husband continued, warming up to this subject, “your article hasn’t even touched on your yard-sale habit. Our house would be fine if it weren’t filled with toys. Do you ever plan to go through them and organize them?”

“Someday.” I assure him. “Not now though. I’m writing an article.”

Being Thankful

I wanted to write an article on what I was thankful for. Because of Thanksgiving. After all, it’s the season, but I’m really much better at complaining. And I’m really upset about the winter coat thing. And, this Thanksgiving I feel funny about writing on and on about all I have to be grateful for, because there is a lot, and I’m not at all sure that its not just bragging.

For example, I’ve thankful that I got a nice little retirement job. Even if I am over-60 and over-qualified. I do temporary work about one week each month, stuffing envelopes. It has nothing to do with anything I ever did before, I don’t have to dress up, and I get three weeks off each month. Who could complain?

But…it’s reminding me, in a sometimes uncomfortable way, of all those whose major problems do not include having too many closets where a winter coat might be hiding.

There are about eight people each month that come in and do fulfillment. Some, like me, are people who, for personal reasons, don’t want a more demanding job. But most of them are desperate for something better. If I see any of them next month, it means that they have failed to get a better job.

Trying to make conversation, I asked a woman who looked to be about my age, what she was doing for Thanksgiving.

“Nothing.” she said flatly.

Later, she told me that she had been doing temporary work for 10 years, ever since her business failed. Woman over 50 she claimed, have the worst chance of any demographic group of finding jobs.

The other ‘temps’ live in a different world than Foxboro. The company is in Newton, and a number of the ‘temps’ take a bus from Dorchester.

“I wish I could move.” one of them told me. “I don’t like hearing gun-fire at night.”

My favorite, a fellow grandmother with a large repertoire of Thanksgiving recipes, lost her oldest son when he was shot this summer.

My fellow temps aren’t losers. They’re hardworking, and bright. I can’t delude myself that our different circumstances amount to much other than blind luck.

I’m not sure where I am going with this. My opinions as to how to fix things do not involve prayer or private charity. They involve politics and no one wants to hear that. And I don’t think I should spend all day worrying about other people either. It’s a day to rejoice, enjoy food and family, and thank God. There’s a season for everything.

But when my worst complaint is that I have too much stuff, maybe I should listen to that quiet voice in the wilderness, trying to tell me to spare a thought for those who have worse problems than a missing winter coat.

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