Volume 18, Number 104, August/September 2015 The Amazing Reversible Coat by Margot Prentice
The street we lived on was an assembly of quickly built homes for the veterans who had come home from World War II. It was 1946. My father had returned pale and tired. The houses were all the same, a growing new suburb established in the north end of Winnipeg. They were called war time houses, and we lived on a street called Airlies. It was the first time I had a room of my own; I no longer had to sleep on the sofa in the living room. The excitement of having my own room was overwhelming, and I lay on my bed for hours looking at the ceiling in a delirium of happiness. My room had a bed and a dresser. I thought it was furnished like a palace and I felt like a princess.
Most of the men had not come back to jobs so until my father could find work money was scarce and we had to make do with what we had. Most meals consisted of beans and rice, and only on the Sunday would there be meat. There was always a roast, with potatoes and gravy. Memories of hot beef sandwiches on Monday I can still recall, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned that there was actually beef in a hot beef sandwich.
A year had passed; my Father had still not found work. It was October and the fierce cold winter was moving in as temperatures dropped with swirling snows that bit our uncovered faces. In the 1940s winters in Winnipeg were bitterly cold. My brother and I had a five mile walk to school every day. My mother bundled us up as best she could for the hike to school. I recall the walk as being very long and often I was cold. That year I had grown and was in need of a new warm winter coat. My old one was thread bare and too small for me. I was very excited as I looked through the Sears’ catalogue to pick out a new coat.
“Here’s the one I want,” I said pointing to a coat in the catalogue.
My mother frowned, and told me that we could not afford a coat until my Father had a job. I closed the catalogue disappointed, but understood. I knew my mother would somehow bundle me up to keep me warm without a new coat. And there was always the hope that when my Father got a job I could have the catalogue coat. I woke up in the night to hear the hum of my mother’s sewing machine. She often did piece work and worked late into the evenings, the sound comforted me. I knew my mother was home, and would go right back to sleep.
The next morning my brother and I got the call. “Time to get up. Come downstairs, I have a surprise for Margo.” The house was warm so we quickly went downstairs to the kitchen.
My mother went into the bedroom and told me to close my eyes, which I did. Then she put something warm over my arms and told me to keep my eyes closed. She placed what I thought was a hat over my head and did up three buttons.
“Now open your eyes!” When I opened my eyes I had on a new winter coat. I remember it as the most exquisite outfit of my life! It was made of a warm wool material, the colour of light brown, with long sleeves trimmed in dark brown, a hood, also trimmed in the darker colour and round big black buttons down the front. I was thrilled to my very core!
“But this coat is special, honey!” She took if off me, turned it inside out and there was different coat, only it was a dark brown with a lighter trim of beige on the sleeves and hood. “It is reversible!” It was like I had two new coats instead of one at the same time. I went to school that day with my coat, warm as can be. I felt special as I walked proudly in my new coat on that long road to school.
When I came home I went into my parents’ bedroom where my mother was sewing. I noticed the bed, something looked different. With my mother’s back to me, cautiously I pulled the bedspread back. Two of my mother’s blankets were gone! It was then I realized what she had done. She made my coat from the blankets on her bed. I have never forgotten the coat; I have a warm and happy memory of wearing my reversible coat. Joseph had his coat of many colours. I had mine and I believe it was even more amazing!