Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by
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Wearing my mother’s mink coat

Mainly I remember my mother’s closet as a great place to play hide and seek. It was a big walk-in closet shaped like an L, so you could go around the corner to hide and a seeker might just look in the doorway and not see you. There was also a little door that led into a crawlspace, and I imagined that if you went through that door you could get to all kinds of secret passageways.

My mother had a mink coat, with her name embroidered in the lining. When I was little, I loved it when she put on that coat, which she only wore if she and my father were going somewhere special. I would run my hands up and down her sleeves because it felt so good. Many years later, after she became a snowbird and started spending all her winters in Florida, she realized that she would never again be in weather cold enough to wear it, so she offered it to my sisters and me. Neither of my sisters wanted it, so I took it happily, even though Sacramento winters aren’t all that cold. I wore it a couple of times, but then wearing any kind of fur became so politically incorrect that I couldn’t any more. I still have it hanging in my closet though, and I can still run my hands up and down the length of it and think of my mother. The featured image is of me modeling it in a photo shoot for my daughter’s photography class.

We sold my mother’s New Jersey house when she decided at age 93 that she couldn’t make the twice-yearly snowbird trek any more. This was not the same house I had grown up in, with the L-shaped closet. That one had been sold when my father retired, back in about 1978. But all the furniture and art and other accoutrements of my childhood house had been moved to this smaller house, so my sisters and I went through it to see what we wanted to take, with my mother’s blessing.

I ended up with a long black evening gown of hers. I didn’t really think I would have any occasion to wear it, but she insisted that I should have it. This is a picture of me in the gown that I took to send to her, so she could see how it looked on me. That might end up being the only time I ever wear it. I wish now that I had asked her why she bought it, was it for some special occasion, and did she have a good time when she wore it. I’m sure there’s a great story there, and now I’ll never know.

I also took quite a few of her tops and pants and jackets, because they fit me perfectly and I was in need of some new clothes. She had one pair of pants with a note attached to them that said “too tight.” They seemed to fit me when I tried them on, so I took them home, but when I wear them for any length of time, I have to agree with her assessment, they are too tight. I still wear them though, because they look great! I love wearing all of these clothes of hers, especially now that she is gone. I feel her spirit enveloping me, like a wonderful hug from beyond.




Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Written with your usual simple-yet-sophisticated clarity. I was moved, as I have been with earlier stories, by the rich fabric [wink] of your family life, and how it manifests in your current life. Nice to have such loving ghosts around, especially those with classy coats and elegant gowns.

  2. Susan says:

    I’ll be writing this week about my mother’s clothes, and some of the circumstances of my having come into possession of them. Similar to your experience in many ways. It’s amazing how material possessions can come to embody a spark of their owner, and how we can keep that spark alive by enjoying those possessions.
    And hey, congratulations on hitting 50 stories on Retrospect!!! Multiple thumbs up!

  3. Gary Faules says:

    You definitely should consider finding a gala event to wear it to.

  4. John Zussman says:

    I love the notion that wearing your mother’s clothes is like a hug from beyond. We have a set of wine glasses that we inherited from my mother-in-law, and every time we use them I remember her fondly.

    I realize that wearing real fur is politically incorrect, but surely there must be some dispensation for an antique mink that was made well before we realized the harm it caused. As for the black evening gown, isn’t there some event it would be perfect for, such as, I don’t know, an upcoming college reunion?

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, you look so elegant in that fur and the gorgeous dress (you would have been right at home at the Cipriani last Wednesday…you saw my photos on Facebook, but many were in long dresses). As I mentioned, my mother had a seal coat…soooo soft, when I was little. That was the pre-seatbelt era and when we drove to Toledo for the holidays to see my grandparents for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would curl up next to her on the front seat. It was so comforting. In college, she moved on to some other fur and they restyled the coat for me. I’m sorry, but there is nothing as warm and I wore it from sophomore year on. We definitely didn’t know how they killed the seals.

    I love the image of you feeling a hug from your mother when you wear the clothing. Your mother is smiling. Happy Mother’s Day!

  6. rosie says:

    Dear Suzy,
    What a kind and loving memory. This story creates a sense of continuity through the generations, a loving household, and a generous mum. I really enjoyed reading it.

  7. Patricia says:

    My mother had the requisite mink coat (and hat) too, and my sister and I both turned it down for similar reasons as yours. It was all but ruined by smoke when her home burned. Eventually they did get the smell out and now my niece in the midwest wears it beautifully. BTW, I can’t get that awesome song out of my head–I had totally forgotten it!

  8. smithlouise says:

    Suzy, Thank you for this piece which took me back to my parents’ one crowded, though still mysterious, closet. I revered my mother’s fur coat and your sensuous detail brought that all back. Great photo of the elegant woman in the elegant dress.

  9. muzziesgirl says:

    Suzy, What wonderful memories you have! My Mom never had a mink coat but my grandmother did. I remember being slightly scared of it. My Grandmother also had a muff? that went around her neck. It was a little fox or mink or some animal that had a hidden magnetic clasp that held it in place. It looked like the animal was biting its own tail. That one really scared me! I love your feelings that your Mother is hugging you! Thanks for a lovely memory.

  10. Wonderful memories of your mother, Suzy! I think many daughters of Florida snow birds have their mothers’ mink coats in their closets!

    Yes, I understand that California weather isn’t the place for mink coats and now fur is so not PC! I don’t know your Sacramento weather but am sure you know the Mark Twain quote – the coldest winter he ever spent was July and August in San Francisco!

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