The Suitcase Lady


September 24, 2019, 8:37 pm

Fashion is fickle; style endures. But I do delight in observing fashion trends. When my husband and I were recently walking in a big city, I was taking in the sartorial scene and realized I was seeing spots everywhere. The fashion gurus have obviously dictated that leopard and jaguar prints are must-have items this season. In the space of one afternoon, I saw dozens of women sporting big cat prints on skirts, tops, scarves, slacks, tights, boots and bags. It was like being amidst a human zoo.

As I saw more and more spots, I asked my husband if he had noticed the onslaught of spotted women.

“Yes”, he replied, “and maybe it’s time for you to dig up your leopard-skin coat from the back yard.” Anyone overhearing his remark must have thought we are crazy, but it’s true and has a logical explanation.

The coat belonged to my beloved Aunt Vi, who had to end her schooling after eighth grade to help support her family. She eventually worked her way up to a good job as the head file clerk for a large company with international sales. Never marrying, she was the family member designated to stay home and care for her widowed mother.

Fashion was one of her true outlets and pleasures in life. So in a time when the words “environmentalist” and “endangered species” weren’t in the vocabulary, she bought the current fashion trend, a real leopard-skin coat. She wore this coat the rest of her long life as well as many fake leopard print clothes and accessories. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of snuggling up next to her and the fur coat when riding in the back seat of my dad’s cold car.

When my Aunt died, I inherited her personal belongings and also a dilemma. I am an ardent animal lover who couldn’t ever wear a dead cat. But because of all the wonderful memories of my Aunt, I couldn’t bear to part with the coat, either. I decided to return the leopard to nature and keep it close to me as well. There really is a leopard buried in my back yard.

1 Comment for this entry

  • eve robillard

    Mary–I, too, find the spotty clothes disturbing–even if they’re fake. I never buy them. And I had a beloved Aunt Eunice who never married and was a snazzy dresser. One year she bought a lamb’s wool coat, and my grandma a mink! They were so proud of them. I don’t recall the coats’ fates, but I do know they’re not in my yard . . .