Full Circle

My mother bought a coat in 1971 at Saks Fifth Avenue on sale that she really loved. It was a clearance sale, but she still spent more than she wanted to on it. The coat was stylish and made her look and feel extremely elegant. She wore it on all important and dressy occasions for years, and it seemed like the coat never looked old or out of style. She would put it on, look at herself in the mirror, and smile.

"You see, when it is good quality, it lasts," she would say.

The frustrating aspect of this wonderful coat was that it had extremely large, flat and very unique buttons. It was a heavier winter coat and the buttons would come loose often from constantly buttoning and unbuttoning it. For the first few years, my mom just dealt with sewing on the one particular button that would either hang at the end of a string looking maimed and limp, or would pop off and take a bounce somewhere that was a pain in the ass to find. The buttons were so unique that mom kept a close watch on them; you could say she started to have button paranoia because she knew that even though she was a seamstress and had access to many kinds of buttons in her line of work, these particular babies would be extremely hard to replace.

After wearing and caring for this coat for a few years, mom bought a new coat and downgraded this one from dressy to everyday. She used it and was still really into it, because every time she wore it, she received a compliment. One morning, she put the coat on to go to work and the button popped off again; that was it, she was having a bad morning, she was annoyed, and she was finally done taking care of this button and this coat. The last three times this button came off she had argued it's case, and even with all of her frustration, the coat won. She would sew the button back on and forget about it because the coat was so great it took the anxiety of the button away.

This time, after reflecting on the past and deliberating yet again, she made the decision to give the coat away to the Purple Heart. She put the button deep in the inside pocket of the lining so it wouldn't fall out and get lost, folded the coat perfectly, and put it in the bag. She thought about sewing the button on before giving it away, but knew that once she sewed it on again, she would be so impressed and seduced by the coat that she would end up keeping it until the next time. So in the button went, deep into the inside pocket of the lining of the coat and into the bag of clothes that the Purple Heart would pick up.

A few months later, when mom was at work at our dry cleaners (where she was a seamstress), a woman walked in with a big pile of dry cleaning and mom got up to count her order. She was concentrating on the pile of clothes laying on the counter and organizing them into pants, suits, shirts etc. When she finally looked up at the woman to ask her what her last name was and to get the information needed for the invoice, mom was surprised to see this lovely young woman was wearing a coat exactly like the coat she had given away.

"What a lovely coat," Mom said.

"Oh thank you," the woman said, "I just got it a few weeks ago and I love it."

"Yes, it suits you."

"Thank you, I'm sad because the button must've fallen off and I can't find one to match." The woman pointed at the breast button that was missing.

My mother, who was ever so graceful and polite, said: "You know, sometimes people put an extra button deep in the inside pocket of the lining, you might want to check there because you never know."

The woman looked for the pocket and was having trouble locating it because it was so flat and hidden within the lining. Mom bent over the counter and reached in to the correct side of the inside of the coat to guide the woman.

The woman reached way down, deep into the inside lining, and a huge smile illuminated her face as she pulled the button out of the pocket.

"That's terrific, I didn't realize this pocket was here!"

My mom courteously smiled at the woman.

The woman pulled off the coat and laid it on the counter, put the button on top of it, and said. "Could you please sew the button on for me?"

"Of course, I'd be happy to," Mom replied.

Mom in her favorite coat