Friday, November 30, 2007

The Jacket

This has been in drafts a while and it's certainly longer than 55 words and maybe a little circuitous for Da Count, but it's what I am counting today...


I was about 13 and had been going through that awful growth spurt that leaves you all arms and legs and not knowing how to work this suddenly gangly body, in addition to the curves that in very early adolescence began to burst out all over the place. My mother worked in a horrid little garment factory for a man who regularly cheated her out of wages. She could barely afford to keep me in clothes because I was growing so fast. It was an unseasonably cold late October and I had no winter coat.

My paternal grandmother, Mom-mom, worked at a women's clothing store on the main street shopping district of the next town over from us. It was a small, family-owned shop that had been dying a slow death as its owner, his employees, and the customers aged and the new mall sucked new shoppers away from the downtown. The owner was Mr. Reuben, a short, smiling man who used to speak Hebrew blessings over my brother and me when we came to visit my grandmother at work.

We stopped by to see Mom-mom during some sort of errand one blustery day. Mr. Reuben welcomed us as always while my mother and grandmother exchanged pleasantries. I wandered around the store passing through the racks of rather matronly fashions and then spied a rack of coats. They were nice coats that looked like something a person my age would actually wear. The plaid wool coat with a thick fleecy lining and hood that zippered open to lay flat against your back was so pretty and warm looking. I was excited and quickly looked at the price tag. Fifty dollars! Oh my word! I knew darned well there was no way on God's green earth my mother could afford a fifty dollar coat. I dropped the sleeve of the coat and quickly turned away from it to see Mr. Reuben smiling.

He urged, "Try it on, honey. See how it fits."

"It's $50. It's too much, Mr. Reuben."

"Nonsense!" he retorted.

I looked at my mom who agreed she didn't have that kind of money. By now Mr. Reuben had pulled the coat off the hanger and was draping it over my shoulders. "Slide your arms down the sleeves, sweetheart. You can try it on and not buy it. Just see if it fits." My mother scowled. My grandmother seemed to exchange a knowing glance with Mr. Reuben as I felt the warm coat wrap around me. Mr. Reuben spun me to face the mirror and asked me what I thought. I really did like the coat and it fit nicely but I knew there was no use since we couldn't buy it so I stood there stammering non-commitally. He interjected, "It fits, the color looks good on you. Does it feel nice and warm?" I said it did. "The coat is yours, honey. You take it." Turning to my mother he said, "Don't you worry about paying for it. She needs a good coat and it is nice on her."

I was stunned by what I considered extravagant generosity and was excited to think this lovely coat could possibly be mine. My mother's face remained stony and she quietly thanked him for the offer but stated she did not care for charity. A lesser man than Mr. Reuben might have taken her response as a slap in the face. He just smiled warmly and said, "Well, I never gave her a gift when she was born and she just had a birthday. So I am giving it to her now. It's not charity. It's a gift. Take the coat."

So, my dear child, this is why I have such a low threshold of tolerance when you whine about being required to select a second coat that will do a better job of keeping you warm when the snow flies after I've already bought you the stylish froufrou coat for autumn.

I'm counting the kindness all those years ago, and that I can properly clothe my own kids today.

34 comments:

Top cat said...

The beauty that mankind is capable of is overwhelming.
This post and the kindness of this gentleman makes my eyes a bit watery.
Thank you lime and thank you mr Reuben, may you be eternally blessed.
tc

KFarmer said...

I'm so happy I stopped by here today~ that is one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a long, long time.

I remember not having a coat once myself and a friend of my brothers gave me his at a football game. I still have and wear it~

furiousBall said...

That's a damn great story. We all need people like this in our lives.

Seamus said...

What a touching act of kindness and generosity. Nice read. :)

Snow White said...

Beautiful story, Lime! Thanks for starting my day in such a warm way.

snow

Hypersonic said...

:~)

lecram sinun said...

Not circuitous at all for da count... actually perfect. I love it especially the simple straight forward kindness of the story. Wonderful!

snowelf said...

Aww! I love this story!!
More proof random acts of kindness exist in a not always so kind
world.

--snow

mcewen said...

Love this from all sides, Mr. Reuben, your mum, your current attitude. Great post.
Cheers

S said...

Aw Lime, you made me cry.
I remember how little money my parents had and three kids. I wanted a red furry coat so bad...it was only $20., but that was a lot of money to my parents. They bought me the coat, but I know it hurt the budget.

Sometimes I feel like such a brat for wanting the things I wanted now that I know how difficult it was for my parents to afford things....thank goodness we lived in Southern California and didnt need snow clothes....

Get the warm coat, child, and listen to your mom!

Flash said...

Wow, what an awesome story....It's people like that, that really make a difference in the world.

And I know you appreciated that coat even more now.

thank you for sharing that story at this time of year.

tsduff said...

A great kindness remembered... People like Mr. Reuben truly help the world with their love.

I remember a Christmas when my children were small. I was lamenting to a group of women friends that I really didn't like having to buy my children's Christmas gifts at The Goodwill Store because we were so poor. After the meeting Holly came up to me and pressed something into my hand. I looked, and it was a $20 bill. That was a huge amount to me, and I cried at her generosity. I still think of her kindness today.

The Zombieslayer said...

Lime - Wonderful story. Ever heard that Dolly Parton song about her multi-colored jacket? I'm no fan of country, but I love that song. This reminded me of it.

Pauline said...

There are really some wonderful people in the world and it's so refreshing to read about one thanks for making a little dent in my cynicism Lime!

Suldog said...

What a wonderful man! And you told the story perfectly. Thank you, sincerely, for sharing that.

smarmoofus said...

I'm quite certain it was a perfect story. I refuse to find any complaints so we won't count the words. Touching.

SignGurl said...

*tears* What an awesome story!

ann said...

a moving story with a moral to it...

it's so simplistic to believe the world is bad, but it's bad publicity that makes the news, not gestures such as this

Mr Reuben was a Jewish man and in Judaism we are expected to perform mitzvot, good deeds... his was an act of chesed, kindness and he probably didn't have to think too hard about it, it probably came naturally to him...

Charles said...

What a wonderful man. I'm so glad to hear about him, to know that kindness and generosity exists and that there are people who actually do make the world a better place. You add to it, too, Lime. This was a story of a beautiful soul, from one.

Jeni said...

Great story, Lime and wonderful moral to it as well.

Moosekahl said...

That made me cry. What a wonderful man Mr Reuben was! If only there were more his kind in the world today. God bless you!

Margee-Martha-Marsha Pick-One said...

Honestly this is like one of those 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' stories!
*sniff* Thanks for sharing.

Mona said...

This is a wonderful story about kindness and compassion...

It is significant more so because it is an act of kindness from one of the people of a once ostracized race, to which the world has been so unfair and unkind too...( which is very very shameful)

This is the proof that goodness exists in all humans, no matter which religion, race, sect or place they might belong to...

We are all one race...Human race & we must allow all kind of boundaries to melt down and reach out for loving and helping one another...

Charity becomes good or bad with intention. For a true act of compassion, the receiver should feel lucky that he/she has been elemental in evoking the feeling of kindness in the heart of the giver and allowed the kind and the positive act to flow...

TLP said...

Absolutely beautiful! This brought tears to my eyes. I was a poorer than poor child, and all my coats were hand-me-downs and very well worn ones at that. When my oldest sister, Mary, got her first job, I was only 11 years old. One of the first things she ever bought was a new coat for ME! ME! Not herself, but me. Thanks for reminding me of that sweet gift.

Rebicmel said...

This is absolutely a beautiful writing!!! I loved this and the feelings it evoked within. Have a great weekend kiddo!!!

Queenie said...

You and Pauline just want to make me cry today. That is such a lovely story, its also shows what kind of person you are Lime ,you never forgot that act of kindness.

BTExpress said...

That's a wonderful story. My son used to complain that we didn't buy him everything he claimed every other kids had or wasn't the right brand or style. Ever since he started working full time and I told him he was on his own when he wanted clothes, his taste changed considerably. For some reason the 5 tee shirts for $20 and the $50 sneakers are just fine now.

Theresa said...

That was a sweet story. What a lovely person Mr. Reuben must have been, and how well he handled the situation. Today's post just warmed my heart. :)

Boysenberry said...

Thank you for sharing such a great snippet of your life.

I look at MissB and wonder if we're bringing up the next generation to not always appreciate how difficult life can sometimes be.

MarmiteToasty said...

What a beautiful touching story....... sometimes, when I tell stories of childhood to me lads, they say, but mum, that was in the olden days *rolling me eyes* - fanks for sharing this with us.....

x

Casdok said...

Lovely!

Joeprah said...

Mr. Reuben Rocks! Great story!

Gledwood said...

Love that story!

Cricket said...

Yes, one coat, two coats... the moral of the story is about the same. These are the things we need to remember.

Just in case you thought I'm all in the Christmas spirit based on my last couple of offerings, I'm not. From some of your writings, I think we're in a similar frame of mind. Christmas has become, of late, a slow grind of mandatory merriment for me. I love my family, even my in-laws, but I'd still rather be home by the fire with a book. Company optional.

I wrote what I have to remind myself what Christmas ought to be, or what I would like it to be, or maybe just who I'd like to be at Christmas-time.

When all else fails, at least we have our coats.