Grandmother left me her fur coat. I had a hard time accepting it, being the animal rights activist I was. What could she have been thinking? It hung in my closet for years - until I realized that it wasn't so much a dead animal as it was a dead animal that had been dead for 50 years. More important, the coat was grandmother's one true luxury. It was something bought just for her, something she saved her egg money for. Even poor farmer's wives need a little luxury.
I remember the winter she got it. She still would wear her everyday tweed jacket for feeding the chickens and moving hay or hanging laundry on the cold silver lines.
But once a week was "town day." For this she would dress up a little and put a drop of perfume behind each earlobe, earlobes on which she hung her amethyst earrings. She would iron her second-best dress, a blue one with flowers, and drape her fur coat across her hard, determined frame. Sometimes she would let me accompany her on her afternoon out. It was only we girls, mind you. Grandfather's lunch would be tucked under a cloth in the kitchen, and he would smile and wave as we drove off.
The coat feels and smells of Grandmother's lavender perfume. I recall her holding my mittened hand, leading me to town. I would stroke her side and accompany her to tea at her friend's place. The coat would be stretched dramatically on a couch or chair so that people could admire it. I often fell asleep under that coat, curled up in its warm fur. Grandmother would gently shake me awake, and we would be off to make other stops: the local co-op to place food orders, for instance. If we had groceries, a red-headed boy who seemed in awe of Grandmother's coat would carry them to our car. Once he reached out to stroke the fur coat while Grandmother pulled a dime out to tip him.
We'd go to the beauty salon occasionally, where Grandmother would have her wavy hair trimmed and washed. I would guard her beautiful coat in my lap as the cut and curler girls "ooh-ed" at it. People treated her differently in that coat. They took notice of this beautiful woman I felt fortunate to be related to. She was no longer a farmer's wife, she was blue-eyed Elizabeth Potts, and she mattered.
Perhaps that's what she recalled when she left me the coat. It's tough sometimes, but for those who don't chastise me for wearing a floor-length fur, I take the time to tell them how it transformed Grandmother into the gracious woman I always knew her to be.