Talking Story

Last Christmas I ordered a deep red down-filled coat based on a picture and a few stellar reviews  on a website. The knee-length coat promised to keep me warm during fall and spring soccer games and maybe even through a college football game or two. Better yet, it was on sale. My husband was thrilled when I told him what he got me. He and the kids wrapped it up when it came and put it under the tree.

I should’ve known that as excited as I was to get it, it was bound to be a bit of a letdown. When I tried it on, the sleeves felt a little short, and the jersey lining that sounded so cozy in the ad  sparked and snapped with static. Wearing it, I felt more Michelin Man than carefree breezy suburban Mom, less likely to burst into winter song and serve hot chocolate than sulk in the car in a too snug coat. Based on the reviews about its generous size, I’d ordered it a size smaller than usual.

Should’ve known better.

But it was a Christmas present and difficult to return, so I stuck it in the mud room closet and promptly forgot about it until today when I was heading out the door wearing something more suitable for summer than the sleet and snow blowing outside. Why not, I thought, it comes to my knees and who cares if I look like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man? We’re headed to the grocery store for bread and milk, not lunch at the Four Seasons.

Zipping it up, I was surprised. It was loose, almost too big, although my wrists still poked out more than I’d like. I popped in the bathroom to check it out in the mirror. The thirty pounds I lost this fall made a difference. While I’d never look svelte wearing a maroon arctic sleeping bag, at least I didn’t look like an over-stuffed sausage anymore. When my husband yelled down the stairs that he’d be a couple of minutes longer and knowing that usually meant twenty, I decided to check my email.

And that’s when the magic happened.

Ten minutes later my husband found me typing away, tweeting and facebooking about how much winter chaps my hide.

“You’re wearing a coat,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “You gave it to me for Christmas last year.”

“A down-filled coat. In the house.”

There’s a reason for his surprise. When it snows, normal people wear coats, sweaters, and shoes. I don’t. I forget there’s an option to shivering miserably. It doesn’t matter that I’ve live through more cold winters now than tropical ones; I’m hard-wired for slippahs, cotton shirts, and shorts. I’m sure it’s some kind of deficiency of either genetics, vitamins, or quite possibly my character. Going from house to garage to car, there’s virtually no temperature change. I honestly don’t think about how cold it is until it slaps me in the face when I arrive at my destination and open the car door. Like a gecko my body tends to equalize to the ambient temperature. I’m chilled through fall and winter and well into spring.

It doesn’t help that I can’t work a jacket’s zipper; lining up the two ends and sliding one side into the other and pulling the zipper up is harder than calculus, requiring dexterity and a zen-like state of mind that slips just out of reach. I mentally hyperventilate whenever I have to zip up a coat. Some things you have you learn as a child or they just don’t stick.

But the longer my husband stared at me happily typing away about the evils of snow and ice, I realized something. In my office, with its two walls of windows usually the coldest (or hottest!) room in the house, I was warm, all the way to my knees. The padding on my sleeves protected my forearms from the bite of my desk’s edge, yet allowed my wrists to fully extend to the keyboard, freeing my fingers to dance. It was amazing, far better than huddling on the coach under a blanket or staying in bed and trying to work on an iPad.

That’s when I knew: this is not a grocery-store-sleeping bag-sideline-soccer-Mom coat!

It’s a magical anti-winter writing coat!

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