The Wonderful Jacket

Tasha in hood 2Those of us who come from New England are familiar with Yankee thrift: use it up, make do, or do without. I am of a conserving nature, having in addition to a Yankee father, a German mother born at the outset of WWI. Nothing was ever wasted in the house I grew up in. I thrived on hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds. Over the years I have accumulated clothing items I am happy to see again when their season rolls around. I often develop a fondness for clothing that has served me well.

Recently as I pushed my wagon through the aisles of a grocery store, I saw a woman standing by the meat counter in a unique and lovely white furry jacket. “I can’t resist telling you I think your jacket is magnificent,” I told her. She laughed and said it was from the 70’s, yet she could never bear to part with it. “Nor should you,” I replied. We each continued on our way, pushing our shopping carts in opposite directions.

I smiled to myself. I was wearing a jacket I have had for close to thirty years. It is a fairly ordinary, black, nylon one, with some very useful pockets. Black fur edges the hood. It is warm and comfortable, and probably unremarkable as jackets go. However the story of how I acquired it and what has been done to it since makes it special.

On a trip to the Cape many years ago, Stephen and I were in a consignment shop, poking around. I saw the jacket hanging on a rack, and figured I might be able to use it. I took it down, intending to try it on. “If you can zip it up you can have it,” said the woman behind the counter. I looked down at the zipper and saw that it was slightly frayed on the bottom and could be a bit challenging. When I tried it on I liked the feel of the jacket and resolved to see if indeed I could zip it.

Very carefully I inserted the frayed end into the metal slot and continued to be careful as I zipped it all the way up. The saleswoman was good at her word and gave me the jacket without charge. In the ensuing years I went on zipping it up carefully until finally one year I invested in a new zipper. Along the way parts of the jacket lining began to wear out. I was fortunate in having friends who at different times were able to repair the worn places in the lining so that it looked almost new.

Now when I put on my wonderful warm winter jacket I remember my friends and their generous work on my behalf. I also think how fortunate I was to have found it, been able to zip it up and to have it still after all these many years. What keeps me warm in it is more than the lining or the material, it is the memories and the love of friends that has been sewn into it. How could I ever part with this jacket? I believe I never could, nor do I ever wish to.

 

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Omens Can Help Us Make Our Good Luck

Peace Village stone Water 1I know others do this too: whenever I see a penny on the ground I pick it up, and depending on whether the penny is heads of tails I keep it or give it away. I was told tails meant it was to be given away, heads to be kept. When we lived near a brook I used to throw in the pennies to make wishes. This is a common superstition. When I just looked it up on the Internet I discovered it comes from the ancient idea that to do so was to make an offering to the spirit of the water and thus to receive help to achieve what was wished for.

Feathers are something else that I always pick up. Not only are they pretty they are said to be messages from those have passed on that all is well, and that perhaps the individual is thinking of the finder. After my son Robin passed on I kept finding feathers everywhere. It is also true that certain Native American tribes consider feathers from particular birds to be sacred objects. The best place to find them is a beach; there gull and other bird feathers are usually to be found in plenty. I once quite a collection; when we moved, I gave them to a friend to use in her various craft projects.

In days gone by the flight of birds was used to predict good or ill fortune. In Ancient Rome this was called augury, and the augur took the auspices, which meant watched the birds for signs of good or ill fortune. Stephen’s grandmother thought birds were an omen of death. Perhaps this belief stemmed from the ancient idea of prediction by the bird flight. Ominous has come to mean scary instead of as reflecting the implication of an omen. In some cultures the whole idea of prediction has negative implications. According to the Internet this practice is more than several thousand years old. Superstitions can endure.

The subject of superstitions has fascinated me since I was very young. I wrote a paper on it for an assignment in the eight grade. Yet even though I pick up feathers and pennies and make wishes by throwing pennies into water, I firmly believe that we make our own luck–not by practicing superstitions in order try to make it happen but by doing what seems right and good when the occasion arises. The choices we make at certain moments can make a great deal of difference in the outcome..

The saying that what goes around comes around seems to me to resonate as truth. It could be that my belief is influencing my opinion yet even if that were to be true it seems to me that one can only benefit by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. There is one codicil I would add: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you were they. In other words, think about what the other person might really prefer rather than what you believe they might when you are doing unto. When you do this you are fulfilling the true intent of the good result that you can earn by remembering to do unto others.

Tasha Halpert