I had a birthday about a week ago. I won’t mention numbers here, but it was a fairly significant (and painful!) birthday. While having a birthday mixed up in the middle of the holiday season wasn’t so great when I was a kid, the older I get, the less I mind getting lost in the shuffle.
For many reasons, the holidays are not my favorite time of year. However, the newness of a holiday in a different place was interesting. We went all out on outdoor illumination. Both of the boys were here for Thanksgiving, and we began the process that weekend. Emily added more lights one day when she wasn’t working. We added more lights the following weekend. By the time it was all said and done, we had a pretty respectable outdoor display. We especially enjoyed the uniqueness of our choice of pastel colors in our very white-bread, Stepford-esque neighborhood. If prizes had been given, our house would have won the award for “Most Unique.” I smiled every time I pulled into the driveway after work during December, and I already miss our happy display of lights. I might have to dig out the pink lights for a Valentine’s display, although that might be a violation of our HOA regulations.
For the first time in years, Emily and I set up the Christmas village. It was interesting to see these holiday decorations that have languished in boxes for the past five years or so. I had forgotten how much I had once enjoyed decorating the house for the holidays. While I didn’t go overboard this year, our home was more festive than it has been in years.
During the process of digging through boxes to locate the Christmas village, I came across our collection of holiday DVD’s. In the time before Netflix and On Demand cable, I had collected DVD’s of my holiday favorites. Once again this year, we enjoyed watching many of these old movies. My all-time favorite is “Christmas in Connecticut.” T and I watched it together one night after the girls had gone to bed. They’re not really into the black and white movies like their parents.
One of my favorite scenes from “Christmas in Connecticut” is when the smart, sassy character played by Barbara Stanwyck rewards herself for her success as a writer with the purchase of a mink coat. This scene embodies so many things I love about this bygone era. Elegance, spirit, style. Stanwyck’s character is so pleased with her purchase, so beautifully self-assured as she twirls about the room in her new mink coat. It makes me want to run my hands across the fur and wrap myself in the silky softness.
I must have said something. I probably said, “Oh, I wish I had a mink coat.” I’m certain that I didn’t give it another thought.
A few days before my birthday, Emily said, “Mom, I need to talk to you.” OK…I’m always willing to talk, and I asked her what was up. She lead me into the privacy of my room and told me. “Mom, I’m really worried about what Dad is going to give you for your birthday. It’s really horrible, and he spent way too much money on it. I wanted to prepare you, because you’re going to have to act like you like it.” I was a little worried then.
Thing got even more complicated later when T said to me, “I’m really nervous about what I got you for your birthday. I really hope you’re going to like it.” I was beginning to get a little concerned.
My birthday fell on a Monday, and I took the day off work. New Year’s Eve was the next day, and the office was going to be closed anyway. The extra day gave me another nice, long weekend. I didn’t have anything planned beyond a trip to the grocery store. Other than one crappy work email that needed to be addressed and a phone call from a d-bag, it was a nice, relaxing day. Two of my board members sent me flowers, and my kitchen looked a little bit like a funeral parlor. I spent some time talking to friends from back home who called to wish me a happy birthday. It was a quiet, relaxing day. T and I had plans to go out for dinner alone, which is a luxury for us. Lately, we’re mostly a foursome with the girls, and I looked forward to an evening just being a couple of adults.
When T got home from work, he was excited to give me my gift. A looked passed between Emily and I and he asked if I already knew what it was. “Of course not!” I said, but I was beginning to get a little freaked out. What could it possibly be? The last thing I wanted to do was hurt T’s feelings. I took a deep breath and prepared to put on my game face.
The box wasn’t big, about the size of a small shirt box, so I knew that it couldn’t be jewelry. My hands were actually shaking as I ripped the paper. All eyes were on me, waiting to gauge my reaction. When I lifted the lid, I saw it…fur. Emily visibly shivered. Lola said, “What is THAT?” T had a big grin on his face. As for me, I have no idea what I must have looked like or how I reacted. I was still trying to figure out WHAT it was!
I was shocked, to say the least. As I pulled it out of the box, T told me what it was. It was a mink scarf. He was explaining that he had wanted to get me a mink coat, but the store didn’t have any in my size. (Thank goodness!) He was talking fast about all of the wondrous furs he had seen, both for sale and in their storage area. Turns out, tiny women like me don’t often wear mink coats, but they could make one specially for me. (NO!) What I remember most was the fact that I couldn’t stop looking at the fringe. I wondered if it was tails, many tails. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but I’m not sure that it really would have mattered. Dead is dead, right?
The girls just kept staring. T told me to put it on. Once again, Emily shivered. Lola just stared. She said, “What IS that, Mom? What is that made out of?” Once I told her, she shuddered, too.
OK, so I had said that I wanted a fur coat like Barbara Stanwyck’s character, but it’s not 1945. Fur coats are not a treasured, or even accepted, fashion accessory in 2013. I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for being a hard to find size. What if T had been able to find a coat that would fit me? What if he had spent thousands of dollars on something, out of the goodness of his heart, in an effort to make me happy, that I would be afraid to wear in public? I still shudder to imagine such a thing!
I had to wear it when we went out for dinner that night. T literally beamed with pleasure. (That part was sweet.) I’ll admit it. I cringed a little bit to feel the fur of dead animals surrounding my neck. I’m a country girl. I eat meat. I have gathered eggs and plucked chickens. I have watched cows and pigs being castrated. I like to fish, and I enjoy shooting a gun. Still, all I could imagine were piles bloody little mink bodies when I put on the scarf. Damn, PETA. I told myself, “Mink are rodents.” Somehow that didn’t help.
I wrapped the scarf around my neck and stuffed it down inside of my coat. I was ready for someone to call me out as a murder. I was afraid that people were going to stare at me as if I was some kind of freak. Or….throw a bucket of blood at me. The thing I was unprepared for, though was the comfort. It was a cold, snowy night, and the scarf was warm and marvelous. It wasn’t itchy like wool. The wind didn’t whip through it. Yes, the scarf felt amazingly luxurious. 1940’s kind of luxurious.
I’m sorry that the little minks had to die. Truly, I am. I had a conversation with T to let him know that this is where it ends. No more fur for me. Still, I am vowing in honor of the lives of the little minks who are now my scarf to honor them, and their lives, by wearing my scarf with pride.