My worn and tattered peacoat has finally been retired after more than eight years of service in the harsh winters of Central New York. The Joseph Abboud garment—purchased online for about $80 from JCPenney or Target—now rests at the bottom of an outdoor clothing donation box. With my wardrobe dominated by old jeans and khakis and dark sweaters purchased at thrift stores, the peacoat had given me a modicum of style, a hint of fashion. It was the only decent item in my closet.
I had planned to wear the peacoat the rest of the winter, hoping to make it last until Easter. I had been wearing a waterproof raincoat over the peacoat in an effort to protect the peacoat’s battered exterior. It was a laborious process to put on my hoodie, put on my peacoat, and then slip on the raincoat. It seemed like a waste of time for me to go to the gym every day during my lunch hour. I thought I could get just as good a workout if I stayed inside and did ten repetitions of putting on my boots, winter hat, and my three layers of coats.
But a friend gave me a gift—a brand new, thigh-length winter coat—so it didn’t make much sense to keep using the peacoat. But that didn’t make saying goodbye an easier; even though the peacoat’s pockets and lining were ripped and the buttons ready to fall off at any moment, it still felt good wrapped around my shoulders.
The heavyweight wool fabric provided density and comfort against the cold, and I loved the classic American look that signaled masculinity. In fact, whenever I adjusted the collar, I fantasized that I was James Dean or Jack Kerouac roaming through the back alleys of Manhattan in the 1950s.
Perhaps I should not have gotten so attached to a coat, an inanimate object. But I reminisce about what I experienced while wearing the coat. I wore the coat while working in New York City. I wore the coat while taking a trip westbound aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, en route to Toledo, Ohio, to visit my sister. I wore the coat when I visited my parents in Rome, New York, at Christmas in the years before my mother passed away. And I wore the coat while going on numerous walks with my wife, Pam, and my infant son, Colin.
Of course I know a coat is just a coat, nothing more. But I am sentimental because this one helped me to endure the upstate New York winters, making the months between Thanksgiving and Easter a little more bearable.
Here’s a poem I wrote about the coat:
Change of Seasons (The Peacoat Poem)
The first day of October
and temperatures dip
into the low 40s.
A feeling of utter gloom
as I reach into the shadows
of the hall closet and retrieve
my worn, black peacoat.
And so begins another
six months of winter
in Central New York.
I should be used to it by now,
but I can’t reconcile with this weather.
And my peacoat will not return
to the closet until after Easter.
So until spring arrives,
I will continue to grumble
about the cold,
while making sure
to button up my coat
before I step outside
to face the elements.