When the Bellas got together three months ago or so we were in Sonoma having magnificent French toast at El Dorado Kitchen with promises of shopping on the Square afterward. Maybe it’s because I live here and can go shopping on the Square anytime I want, but I was really dragging my feet on the shopping part. Don’t we often think the best things aren’t going to be right under our noses, that we have to travel to find the good stuff? Maybe that was going on or it could have been that I was feeling sluggish after the yummy French toast, butter, and maple syrup.
Marj and Mariann were eager to check out one of their favorite stores, Artifax. That store is not really my thing. I’ve walked in and walked out because it’s overwhelming for me. It’s packed floor to ceiling with merchandise. You can hardly move between the stuffed rounders of clothes. I prefer less-cluttered spaces. Knowing this about myself I gave the heartier shoppers a headstart. I didn’t want to be like the two-year-old tugging on their sleeves saying, “Can we go now? Can we go?” I hung back at Reader’s Books.
By the time I wandered up First Street and walked into the store, they’d already found treasures. I oohed and ahhed and started thinking about the ice cream store next door that makes homemade ice cream and yummy chocolate malts.
I tried to get my inner two-year-old under control. I walked around without really focusing on anything.
Then it happened. I saw an arty, shiny black and gray coat with block letters all over it. Letters! Vowels like A, E, O, and U. “I” was missing, but it had Y which acts as a vowel sometimes. And there were oodles of consonants! J, D, C, X, B, N, K, P, H, T, R, Z.
Mariann spotted me in the corner gazing at the letter jacket. Marj followed. “Try it on,” they said.
I did. They oohed and ahhed.
“Oh, you must have that,” they said.
I had to get over the itchy problem first. It had scratchy metallic threads that bothered my neck and arms. Even though I found it appealing, it was awfully shiny…and did I say bold? Could I pull that off?
“But where would I wear this?” I said.
“Oh, I can see you standing in front of an audience in this coat,” Marj said.
“And I can see you wearing it when you’re talking about fashion or your books,” Mariann said.
“You could wear it at the MMB* Retreat,” Marj said. While I was fussing over the solution for the scratchiness (looking for a way out because it pushed against my comfort zone) they were trying to get me all in.
“I am going to be presenting A Conversation on Aging at the retreat,” I said softly, mostly to myself.
They heard me.
“Wear it to that!” my chorus of nice, lovely, non-bratty friends said.
I didn’t tell them what popped into my head. It was a memory of being at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. Before I moved to Sonoma I’d drive into the City nearly every Sunday and listen to Rev. Cecil Williams’ sermon and the live band and big chorus led by Donell who played the grand piano. I loved sitting close to the choir director, watching his black fingers with pink fingernails fly up and down the keyboard.
When the choir was done singing the morning gospel songs Donell would get ready to leave the stage as Reverand Cecil came up to the podium to give the sermon. I’d watch Donell slide off the piano bench so smoothly and lean over to pick up his bag. It was a black leather bag with a zipper across the top. It was a perfect shape for holding sheet music. Across the bottom of the bag were black and white piano keys. What a perfect bag for him, I thought.
The following week I was back in church in my favorite pew but Donell wasn’t there. Someone else was at the piano and members of the choir were wiping away tears. Rev. Cecil told us what happened. Donell had died at 7:30 a.m. that morning. I don’t know the details. I wasn’t part of his inner circle. My memory of his music lives alongside that bag that I’ll never forget.
As I looked at every letter in this text coat (by Heydari), I knew it was mine. Just like that leather bag with the piano keys on it was Donell’s, this coat was mine. The way he loved keys is the way I love words. Wearing this coat pays tribute to the words I get to work with every day.
So, my friends, I did figure out the solution for this coat. I wear my Babette black long-sleeved microfiber t-shirt under it and don’t feel any itchiness. I wore my Lisa Bayne Crepe Barefoot Pant from Artful Home catalog as my pant. I loved how this non-traditional pant suited the jacket perfectly.
I wore my disk collared gunmetal necklace and arty ring. I added fishnet stockings and my pointy-toed Aquatalia suede boots.
I did wear it at the MMB Retreat on Thursday morning when I presented A Conversation on Aging. My letter coat felt like a cocoon. It was perfect!
I shared with you the practice we had of Style Study at our MMB retreat with all the style and image consultants (there’s another post about it for you here, too). Well, when I did Style Study about my outfit, explaining what I was wearing and why, I brought up my beautiful Bellas to give them credit for helping me put on my big girl panties and buy this piece from Artifax.
And now you know the whole story about how I was remembering Donell and his bag that day.
Have you worn something that had a deep connection to you, a passion of yours, or an interest? I’m so eager to hear all about it!