After Winter Storm '09, I took an inventory of heavy coats and decided it was high time some of them should be washed. While my coat never left the closet because I was lying in state on the couch--and we'll just leave it at that because to revive any discussion on the matter would result in either divorce or an unfortunate blame game that scares the children because, let's face it, I'm not a very good patient; more of a whiny impatient, you could say--I figured my coat could stand a few spins in the washing machine, too. Besides, I thought, how long has it been since I washed this coat?
Well, let's see. I bought it in 1983 with money earned by flipping burgers and stirring dehydrated onions WITH MY HAND at Krystal. I saved and saved so that I could drive my '66 VW Bug to the men's store to purchase the very trendy Woolrich hunting jacket. Retail price: $99. That's a lot of tiny burgers. Especially when you consider minimum wage in Alabama was $3.35.
This coat has many, many snapping and zipping pockets and an indestructible, unstainable outer layer, probably designed by NASA, with an inner layer of sweat-inducing tartan plaid. It is featured in photos that span a 26-year history that includes college, a honeymoon, winter vacations, a trip to the hospital to deliver my only winter baby, field trips and who knows what all. It is a timeless favorite that knows no fashion trend. Warmth + pockets + a hood = a solid go-to winter coat. I don't care who you are; this is one practical garment.
I wore this coat through college and then on our honeymoon more than 18 years ago. About eight years ago, I remember, I emptied the pockets to find receipts and brochures from that same honeymoon. And then I washed the coat. So that's one wash. And maybe I should say that I've washed it maybe one other time since then, just so you won't think we're total filth balls here.
So, Amy, how does it hold up in a spin cycle? Well, I will tell you that of the maybe two or three times I've washed it in 26 years of proud ownership, it seems to do quite well. And the pockets are like time capsules. Last week, as I emptied all of them--and there are many--before tossing the coat into the washer, I found perfectly preserved brochures, receipts and admission tickets that are as legible and clean as when I first tucked them away.
A pamphlet from a Dahlonega gold mine tour (circa 2001) bears only one crease, and the paper hasn't yellowed one shade. Admission tickets to Jamestown Settlement & Yorktown Victory Center (circa 2003), mint condition. Alabama Coastal Birding Trail--your guess is as good as mine. Tennessee Aquarium (circa 2006) ticket stubs look like they were printed just moments ago.
And like those sad and crazy people you see on TV who can't part with even the tiniest piece of paper and instead pile it into the spare bedroom and carve a path along the carpeted floor so they can continue to pile more papers and craft items, I found myself with a problem. What do I do with the papers? The receipts? The brochures? A normal person would THROW THEM AWAY. But I couldn't. I examined them. I read them. I displayed them on my desk. I reread them. I rearranged them. Scrapbooking is lost on people like me. We just use our pockets and countertops.
The whole process reminded me of a time when Oprah was sort of normal and provided useful tips on her show, and she featured a woman who hoarded EVERYthing and made stacks all over her house. She and Oprah stood in her kitchen, her home office, her den, wherever, and the woman just cried and cried because she was overwhelmed by her inability to use a garbage can. Oprah looked at the woman like she had lost her mind, and I'm pretty sure she wanted to say, "Why don't you just pay someone to clean up this mess?"
But the woman couldn't physically part with her stacks of papers.
"Oh, wait, I can throw this one away," she told Oprah.
"Why this one?" Oprah held up the coupon for an oil change.
"Because it expired. I have to wait until it expires." I knew exactly how she felt.
"How does that make you feel?" Oprah asked.
"It feels good." And before you knew it, they were both crying.
While I didn't cry as I eventually threw away the brochure about the Alabama Birding Trail, it was a difficult move. To partially fill a trash can with things you've collected in a 26-year-old coat and carried around with you for at least eight years ... well, that's tough. I don't think it warrants an intervention visit from Oprah, but still.
It does explain why I don't wash my coat frequently or clean out my filthy car. It's too much work. It's too much thinking. It's just Too Much. And if you're a Woolrich girl, as I am, the good news is, Too Much is no big deal. You can pack your pockets full of memories and trash and go about your business. Until the next winter storm. And if you live in Alabama, that can be a blissfully long, long time.