Dad's Duds Take Center Stage

If clothes make the man, then my husband is a frontiersman, a swindler, and a vampire. Pieces of his vintage wardrobe have been flaunted in six school plays and a Christmas cantata. To his public surprise, he also watched his grandfather's antique spurs clatter across the stage in "Oklahoma!"

Dan never counted on being a costume department when he protected his old garb from my annual closet clearances. Last year, he threw his arms around the ragbag and rescued a limp shirt-jac from the 1960s. "I can use this to paint in!" he exclaimed and added it to the mound of faded flannels. Unless he redecorates the whole neighborhood, wearing a new outfit every day, the same pile will be here in 10 years.

I finally found an outlet for his vermin- infested woolens when our daughter took up acting in the seventh grade. "Just don't tell your dad," I said as she ransacked his suits and hauled away a black one. Three weeks later, I applauded when the coffin opened and Dracula sprang forth in Dan's high school graduation attire.

When the aspiring actress turned 14, she volunteered as wardrobe mistress for "Meet Me in St. Louis." We secretly transported a trunk of items for the cast to try on. On opening night, Dan whispered, "That punk is wearing my Harris tweed!" I shushed him. He continued on the way home, "I'm tired of my good stuff being a public joke."

"How would you like it if your favorite things were kicked around?" he asked our theater star at dinner. She stammered, "And Dad, by the way, I borrowed that ancient brown leather vest of yours. We're doing 'The Sound of Music,' and Captain Von Trapp was desperate for a costume, so I...."

"What! Do you realize that in the pocket of that leather vest is my grandfather's gold watch? And furthermore, the fob is braided from my grandmother's hair?" He arrived early on opening night, mainly to guard his valuables.

After the first refrain of "the hills are alive with the sound of music," Captain Von Trapp fished out his antique watch, checked the time, and continued singing. Dan's eyes were frozen on the fob. Twelve inches of red hair appeared on stage whenever the colonel remembered the watch was still attached to his belt loop.

That final performance worked on Dan's last nerve. Rifling his wardrobe is now off limits. Seeing his grandmother's hair jerked around for two hours brought about changes in the way the man dresses. Dan is the only guy around who mows the lawn in spurs with a gold watch lashed to his coveralls.

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