Let It Snow
There’s finally some snow on the ground here in Michigan and it feels like winter at last. I love winter, I adore snow, I like cold weather.
I know. I’m a lunatic.
Right now I'm living on the farm where we resided when I was four and five years old. At that age, snow isn’t something you have to shovel, dig your car out of, or scrape off your steps and walks and porch. Snow is a wondrous thing that transforms the world into a white playground that you can slide on, burrow into, and basically build, sculpt, shape, and mold to your heart’s desire. Kind of like play-dough--except that it’s everywhere. When you’re four, I don’t think snow is even cold.
Right after I turned six, my mom got a job in Augusta, Georgia and we headed down south. We moved in June. This part of Georgia isn’t near the ocean or the mountains, but is part of something called the Piedmont Plateau and the weather is very predictable: hot, humid, and sunny. Sunny, in fact, for some 300 days out of the year. Which would be nice, except that it’s as humid as the devil’s armpit with scarcely a breeze to stir the air, and it doesn’t cool down--not even at night.
The seasons change a bit—while summer lasts from May through September (or maybe April to October—at least we didn’t have to wear coats over our Halloween costumes)— winter would see cooler temperatures, maybe in the 50s (10-15C) during the day. But the leaves don’t change color in the fall, and very few trees lose them over the winter.
One winter coat was enough, because you’d barely need it, maybe for that one rare morning a year when the Southern world would be dusted with the barest sprinkling of snow and everything would grind to a halt, school would be cancelled, and we’d scramble outside to try to scrape up enough of this extremely precious substance for a snowball fight (very unlikely) or a teeny snowman (even less likely) because we knew it would all melt by 10 a.m.
So this brings me to my obsession with coats.
Having grown up where I barely needed one, winter coats meant going to Pennsylvania for Christmas (which we did every winter) to that magical wonderland where maybe it would snow.
In this winter fantasyland, I had cousins that lived on farms with animals like sheep and horses and lots of cats and dogs, grandmothers let you eat cake for breakfast, and you could walk—actually walk—from the house to the store, church, and even (gasp!) the one-screen movie theater. And, of course, you needed a warm coat.
When I was four, my Grandma got me and my cousin fuzzy purple winter coats for Christmas.
That’s me on the right. I can’t explain the suitcases. I’d forgotten about them until I found the photograph. Maybe Santa brought those. It was 1972. Fabulous pattern, isn’t it? We look ready to go to the moon.
I still remember this coat very clearly, as does my Grandma. So does Tonya; the three of us were just talking about them over Thanksgiving.
And now I collect coats. I guess some women love shoes, or handbags—for me it’s coats. Particularly fake fur, fuzzy vintage coats.
So I decided to show you some of my favorites.
This one is from an antique store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I found it in the late 80s when I was shopping with my dad and my grandma. The high collar is really warm!
The fabric is still in excellent condition (even the big covered buttons), but I think the lining is the best part.
Another favorite, a thrift store find. I had to replace all the buttons.
You saw her already, modelling the Braided Cable Scarf. I love the lavender fake fur on this one, and it’s so soft. I found her last winter in NYC at Love Saves the Day.
And she has another wonderful lining.
Cookie Monster! A much-loved Christmas gift from a friend. So 80s, this crazy shape. Believe it or not, under all that fur it even has shoulder pads. I kid you not.
Emma likes Cookie Monster, too.
Not a coat, just fuzzy.
Not fuzzy, just a coat, but an old favorite. Janine Antoni gave this to me when I worked for her in the mid-90s.
My oldest coat. Would you I got this coat in 1980? (Okay, looking at her now, maybe you would believe it.) I still wear this one. We were in Columbus, Ohio and I was twelve years old when my parents bought this for me at the Lazarus Department Store. It was my first “grown-up” coat; I distinctly recall picking out in the Women’s department.
This coat, with its once-again cool 80s stylings (not only the shape, but the drawstrings on the sleeves and at the bottom) has been my constant companion for all these years. It has the uncanny ability to be comfortable whether it’s 60 degrees or 35 degrees out, suits sun, wind, or rain, and is lined with something like a light army blanket so it can be balled up and shoved in a bag.
She’s traveled with me across Europe and into the Soviet Union (yes, it was still the Soviet Union then), to Korea, Canada, and I can’t remember where else. She’s great for napping underneath on trains, planes, and automobiles, and doubles as a picnic blanket when the need arises.
I fondly call her my Fig Coat, since she looks like a great big fig. In Italy, I described her rather proudly to some new Italian friends as Fico Mio. (I like figs; I was pleased to have learned this word and found it useful in the local market.) They burst into hysterical laughter; I didn’t think what I’d said was quite that funny.
They were kind enough to explain to me that while “fico” was indeed the word for fig, when pronounced “ficco” with a double C (as might happen by those of us unused to distinguishing between the sound of single and double consonants) it actually indicates a part of the female anatomy.
I won’t be more specific here, but I did look this word up in my Italian dictionary. “Ficcare” is a verb meaning “to thrust, drive (in, into)”. I’ll let you figure out what the Italians heard when I described the big brown sack I was wearing as Fico Mio.
I’m still wearing her around the farm. At the ripe old age of 27, her zipper finally broke, but since she has snaps it really doesn’t matter. I still adore Fico Mio, and I hope we’ll continue our happy relationship for many years to come.
Finally, the old stand-by: my black peacoat. I got him at a Burlington Coat Factory Outlet when I first moved to New Haven. My only serious criterion for college was that it be somewhere that it would snow. Little did I know that New Haven enjoys not only snow, but every possible form of damp, wet, icy stuff that could possibly fall out of the sky.
A peacoat is the perfect thing for just that sort of weather. Those seaman sure knew what they were doing when they designed this coat—it doesn’t matter how cold or windy it is, or what falls out of the sky, I’m warm in this fellow. And he hasn’t lost a single button in twenty years.