Friday, February 8, 2013

Purple Fur and the Silver Moons

This morning on my way to drop Princess Peony off at school we passed this group of youngsters trudging through inches of snow on a not yet shoveled sidewalk. One of those boys was dressed in an extremely out-of-date snowsuit. I could almost see the silver belt buckle in front that screamed 'I was made in 1985!" My heart went out to that child. That old hand-me-down snowsuit or pair of boots can be cause for extreme, elementary school persecution.

I silently thanked God for Homeschool friends, Church Folk, Thrift Stores, and Clearance Sales.

My children proudly wear thrifted items. We almost never buy things full price. I have been blessed with left over clothes and hand-me-downed closets on many occasions. God has always provided. We often receive things that are nicer than what I would spend money on.

We do have a few standards with the used clothes. No underwear. No inappropriate tees even if it was free. If they really hate it, and I can find it elsewhere, we skip it. If not, they wear it and become a better adult through a tough lesson. 

I think this stems from my year with the Purple Fur Coat and Silver Moon Boots.

My parents were very hard working folks. My dad sold seed corn and soybeans to farmers and as a result we moved from town to town as his job transferred him from area to area. I think often they had a lot to pay Peter and Paul was calling in his loan. 

My mom could make a divine meal out of potatoes, WIC cheese slices, and a bunch of celery. I think she excelled at making us feel full, warm, and rich in all the important things. She taught me to cook down a chicken, knead bread dough, and make a pound of burger stretch a mile and three quarters. She taught me to grab eggs from under an ornery hen, stay out of the goats way, and love the rabbits a bit less because they would be for supper someday. She taught me the beauty of a Marigold was as important as the first ripe tomato in July. 

I never really knew we were poor. I knew we were loved.

Then came the winter of my third grade year. I knew things were different in our family. It was my first realization of not having what others had. I did not have the cool jeans with rainbows on the back pocket. I did not have a polo shirt with a little embroidered horse on the left shoulder. I did not have pretty hair ties, or leg warmers, or Strawberry Shortcake erasers. My backpack was used and didn't have little beaded safety pins hanging from it. I didn't even have a friendship bracelet! My clothes were suddenly wrong even though they had always been okay.

The pinnacle of understanding my differentness came at the first snow. My coat didn't really fit. I remember standing in the local department store with my mother staring longingly at the beautiful ski jacket on display. It was one of those puffy jackets with the western style trim and pearly looking buttons. The top portion above the white piping was a darker blue and the bottom half lighter. It had a metal ring built in for your super cool ski gloves to hook on to. The jacket was shown with matching bib overall snowpants and a fun knit hat with a big fuzzy ball on the top. 

Man, did I want that jacket. I instinctively knew that the blue ski jacket would make me fit within the confines of normal. I could blend in seamlessly with the rest of the class. Ah, what peace it would be. I just wanted to blend in. To be unseen.

I knew however, that it was not to be. I followed her out of the store still thinking about that jacket and about how my current coat was too short in the arms and the snow would get it and freeze up my wrists. My back peeked out if I bent over. My boots didn't fit and stunk like wet bread bags. With a 1/4 mile driveway to walk to the bus every morning that would start to be a problem awfully soon. Winter in Minnesota is merciless even in a mild year.

Mom had been given some bags of clothes for us kids from some kind soul. It was probably a neighbor or church friend who saw my exhausted parents shuffling into service every Sunday dragging twin babies, a preschooler, and me lagging behind. We were always taken care of but I remember her looking so sad so often. Poverty can be a weary place for your soul. Still, God provided for us through my mother's diligent prayers and trust.

I can see the purple fur jacket peeking out of the bag in my mind's eye. It was a pinkish, purple, fuzzy fur. The coat was like a navy pea jacket with the square of buttons in front. There were four of them colored a dull brass like an old used tea pot. I think they were suppose to look like coins with a Roman solider on them. The really horrible part however, was the white, faux fur, trim speckled with black dots. I believe the manufacturer was going for a queen's robe meets a Roman sailor on the good ship Lollypop look.  

Oh, how I repelled inwardly. This was nothing like the sleek, shiny, blue ski jacket.

My mom held it up and judged the size. I knew it was mine. 

So there was my winter coat. I was going to be the tail end of every joke the cool kids could come up with. My eyes filled but I did not show it. I knew I should be grateful to have a coat. The knot in my throat was so hard it hurt and I turned away.

"Look! Boots, too!"

With some apprehension I turned to see my new boots. Oh please could they not match the coat?!

Oh they didn't match the coat. Nope. They didn't match anything. They were shiny, silver moon boots. Boy moon boots. With huge, thick heals and silver laces. They went clear up to my knees and glowed like a bad sci-fi movie. They needed a ski jacket and a boy!

Really? Shall we just stick a Bull's Eye on my forehead?

"Thanks, mom."

I absolutely hated that jacket. I loathed the boots. However, I new it was the best my parents could give and I knew I shouldn't complain. (I am sure I did a bit....)

I wore them.

Grudgingly I admit, they were warm. I was teased. I was laughed at. It was embarrassing to be seen in. I stuck out like a huge purple, fuzzy, Ewok amidst the Sking Crowd. But, I sure was warm.

The lesson learned: Be thankful in all circumstances.

What a gift that is. What an amazing lesson! What a work the LORD has done in my life with a lesson began before I even knew who He was.
 pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

So, sometimes, make them wear that ugly, old, out of date, piece of clothing. It builds character and thankfulness.

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)
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  1. Best. Story. Ever. I actually read it in your voice. I can hear you in my head.

    I remember that family. However, my Purple Fur and Silver Moons came in the form of black faded stretch pants complete with stir-ups and white shirts defiantly too short to cover my Swedish bum in said stretch pants. :-/

    Look at how awesome we turned out though???

    1. :oD! Yes, We are fairly well put together, all because of those awkward moments that turn a person into the adult they become. Bring on those stretch pants! :)
      ps.. I love you.

  2. You told this story so well and I got lost in it and enjoyed every minute of reading it. You had respect for your parents. Thanks for linking up over at WholeHearted Home this week.

  3. Wonderful story, Gretchen. I was the little snot on the opposite side of this story and boy do I have regrets. Good for you showing your parents such respect... <3


    1. :) That made my heart happy. I wasn't always kind either. Thank the LORD we grow up and learn to love better. :)


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