The Russian coat is packed a plastic bag, still on the floor of my office because I have no idea what to do with it. For one thing, it has a history. Back in my older son’s senior year of high school, the class, in conjunction with a course in Russian literature, travelled to Russia during spring break. My son left wearing a blue ski jacket when he boarded the plane. When he arrived back at the airport a week later, he had this thick woolen brass buttoned military coat: the Russian coat.
That coat went with him to university in Chicago, it and he enduring four years of minus zero degree winter weather (and how glad I was he had it) and then it came back home and into the hands of my younger son who wore it for the last two years of high school and beyond. At that point, my older son was working overseas, we were on the cusp of moving to CT, and as we were cleaning things out, I thought maybe it was time to donate the Russian coat.
My eldest was adamant that we shouldn’t. The Russian coat had a story, it was his story, his history; it was part of his growing up. We had strict orders not to donate the Russian coat. By that time, it was in pretty bad shape: it needed a really good going over, repair, and a major cleaning. Was it worth all that if it was just going to be packed away and nobody was planning to wear it ever again?
As I’ve written previously, my mother was born in Russia; my grandparents emigrated here in the 1930’s so I’m not without some sentiment on this matter. I feel that pull to keep some connection to a history that’s in my blood if not in my consciousness.
But maybe there’s a different story about the Russian coat that I, the granddaughter and daughter of those immigrants and romance author, have yet to excavate from its tattered remains. I mean, this could be my Doctor Zhivago moment if I’m ever bold enough to grab it.
Until I’m certain of it, though, I’m feeling, fatalistically, that the Russian coat just might be with us forever. So it sits, a victim of inertia, bundled up, on the floor of my office and I nudge it every once and while, and wonder what to do with it. I try to imagine that moment my son actually came into possession of it, and wonder whether actually having the object is necessary if you’ll always have the memory. I wonder if this is how we all get stuck with the objects of our memories that we just can’t bear to relinquish. And if the reason we hold onto objects is to hold on to our history in order to assure that our children and grandchildren know and remember that we were here.
How many things have tethered you because of memories? Are they inspiration or clutter? Are you someone who can easily let go of objects? Or do you hold onto things forever? Is your house as cluttered as mine? What would you have done with the Russian coat?
Thea Devine is nearly finished with Beyond The Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, to be released April 2013. She’s pleased to announce the reissue of His Little Black Book in October.