I suspect that most people have a blimpcoat.
Oh, not exactly a *blimpcoat*–they have an article of clothing that they can’t bear to part with because there are times it is indispensable. More than once you toss it in the box for charity, or even into the rag bag.
Later, you retrieve it. Because.
Blimpcoat is like that. I even scrubbed it with a mild soap last year. A friend tells me there’s now a cleaner made for slick-surfaced winter coats and jackets. Can it take off decades of fine grit? Do I want it to? I might look like a tourist in a clean coat.
Longer ago than I like to think, I was on a plane heading for Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It was close to Christmas and the city was experiencing a deep freeze. After living in Texas long enough to get rid of my heaviest gear, I was layered and hopeful. We could survive this trip! Then the extending ramp had a malfunction, and we had to walk down a rolling staircase and across the tarmac to the terminal.
“My nose hairs just froze,” said my companion.
It did not bode well.
Friends picked us up, and we headed for the suburbs. On the way, my astute host stopped by a discount cold weather gear store. My companion found something, but the only thing left in the shop that fit me well was a powder blue full length down coat, its stitching horizontal.
When I looked in the mirror, I looked a lot like the Michelin Man.
I couldn’t do it. We got in the car and continued driving. Twenty minutes into the drive, I knew I had made a mistake. My blood had thinned, as we say–I could no longer handle a Midwestern winter. It might take weeks to build back up to comfort.
During dinner, my host leaned over and said: “They are open tonight.”
We went back to the discount store, and there it hung–blimpcoat. No one else wanted to be the Michelin Man, either. I learned at that moment that I had the seeds of my character Alfreda Sorensson within me. Survive first, worry about how you look later. Blimpcoat left wrapped around my slender form. Amid all the humor, I knew the truth: I was in love with my Michelin Man costume.
By the end of the trip, I grew used to the jokes…and to people trying to crawl into the coat with me. When we left parties, I would have to excavate blimpcoat, because the cats and dogs living in the house would be curled up inside of it. Later when I went to Canada in late October, we used blimpcoat as a blanket on the plane and in the hotel. When I gardened in the winter, it was my go-to coat. Eventually I could not really wear it anymore, so I left blimpcoat open and stacked my clothes beneath it, letting it be the top layer.
Blimpcoat has hung neglected in closets for years. It was wadded up in the bottom of a clothes sack. It even survived the humidity of a Texas summer, forgotten in a garage. I tossed blimpcoat into a washing machine once, desperate to clean it. It survived, shrinking slightly, but the stitching is like iron. I gained new respect for it. Someone had made that coat to last.
My magical blimpcoat fits me again (with less room for layers, thanks to that one washing.) It’s still powder blue with a thin layer of grit where I brushed past dirty cars or carried bags of brush. The tight stitching holds within it feathers old enough to have descendants.
I looked at new coats on sale when I had to go to the Midwest during the Polar Vortex. But I had blimpcoat. Did I want to look like a tourist? So I picked up all the new things required for the neck and extremities, and stepped off the plane looking like I had returned home.
Why, yes, people have offered me money for blimpcoat…usually during a deep freeze.
Are you crazy? I’m the Michelin Woman. How could you find me on the streets of Chicago, if I got a new coat? Besides, as you can see, it doesn’t really hang on a chair–it stands around steel tomato stakes like a wind break. Could I find a new coat that took better care of me than this? Not until blimpcoat is ready to pass on the torch.
I don’t think that will happen any time soon.