But I Digress… Frayed Sleeves

Laurie Lambert at the pond in Wheeler Peak Village in the Upper Red River Valley.

My favorite garment in the whole wide world is an old fishing coat.

Paradoxically, I don’t fish. I don’t even own a pole.

But this coat belonged to my grandmother, and every thread seems to embody her spirit. There is something of her essence imbued within each stitch.

Bebe was born in Indian Territory, raised a poor farm girl amongst a brood of seven. Her family was not only without formal education, they were without the impetus. There were no funds for it anyway. Yet, she cobbled her way through college somehow, completely on her own, back when such an undertaking required more than just an admirable dose of pluck. She was a spitfire. Opinionated, pious, and full of splendidly raucous laughter.

If you let her, she could be maddeningly overbearing… but I never let her. That, I think, was the measure of our kindred lives. There was something of herself she must have seen in me. We loved each other dearly (when we weren’t driving each other crazy). I sensed that she could do anything she set her mind to. She believed it and so did I.

It’s probably foolish to regard this garment with any sort of enduring sentimentality. It is cloth, after all, not stone or metal. Surely, it will not last forever. But that’s not the point. The relevance lies with what I carry inside.

I can still see my grandmother standing alongside the water, the grass dried brown by winter sun, a string of fish dangling in the shallows. The coat is wrapped around her like a regal mantel as her line pulls taut once again. The water ripples and, cackling with laughter, she reels in another fish.

It is how I remember her best.

In reality, this old coat is really nothing more than a bundle of faded green corduroy, much too big for me, and far too heavy for any real hiking. Yet I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It is what I wrap around me each morning when I rise. I step outside while the coffee water boils, just to meander for a few minutes, to assess the day and consider the possibilities.

And what possibilities there are! In this coat, I am enveloped with startling insights of purpose and opportunity. I feel my own dose of pluck rise to the surface.

Can an old fishing coat really do that? I am not sure. I only know that, to me, it is the most beautiful coat in the world.

And, thanks to my grandmother, I am stronger just for wearing it.

Editor’s Note: Laurie Lambert fell in love with Red River in 1965. Her childhood dream came true in 1997 when the family cabin was finally completed. Throughout the year she can be found trail running, snowshoeing and devising all sorts of reasons to never leave the mountains.