Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Fur Piece

Mom's coat started life as a mink. I think. Maybe it was only "muskrat died to imitate mink." Anyway, the original coat began to wear out about 40 or 50 years ago. So Mom took it to a local furrier. He cut the coat into strips and turned it into quite a stylish jacket, alternating strips of leather with strips of fur. Mom would store the jacket every summer at Cargo Cleaners and retrieve it "by appointment" every fall. We picked it up from Cargo Cleaners for the last time in July, 1999, on the day I drove her and Sadie, the cat, down to Maryland tø live with us.

Then the fun began. We used to have a Bergmann's dry cleaners in Laurel that would accept furs for storage, after they were first cleaned and repaired. No problem. Mom was willing to part with $80.00 every year even though the jacket was really beginning to show its age. "Are you sure you want to spend that much money on this thing?" the clerk would ask, holding it out on the end of a stick as if it were roadkill. No, there was no stick, but it was clear that the clerks could never fathom Mom's devotion to her fur.

Then Bergmann's closed its Laurel store. The yellow pages lilsted a place on Main Street that stored furs. We made several phone calls. No one ever answered. We climbed dark, rickety stairs and knocked on the door. No one answered the dooor either. Did this hole-in-the-wall belong to some kind of Russian crime syndicate?

I called another place I also found in the yellow pages. A woman with a heavy, perhaps Korean, accent answered the phone. We got exactly nowhere.

"I want to store my mother's fur."
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Yes, I know your store is in Fulton."
"What kreen?"
"A fur coat."
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Yes, I know. Your ad says that you clean fur coats, but do you also store them?"
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Er, thanks. Good bye."

True, I could have gone to Saks or some other place in northwestern Washington, D.C., but I couldn't face the distance or the disdain.

Three years ago when summer arrived, Mom again began fretting about her jacket. I told her I would take care of it and hid it deep in our entry-way coat closet.

Reader, she found it. She was not pleased with me.

More phone calls. I took time off from work and drove to a place on Charles Street in Baltimore, just south of Peabody Conservatory. They said that the jacket had to be cleaned prior to being shipped to Pennsylvania in a refrigerated truck. But then, after a quick inspection, they refused to accept it, stating that the coat would certainly fall to pieces if they cleaned it. I told them a little about Mom and they relented. I am sure it stayed in Batlimore all summer. When I went back to get it, they didn't charge a penny for storage. I knew that I would not be back.

The next summer Mom decided that Maryland winters were too warm for furs anyway. She decided to ship the jacket to Peg, her niece in Massachusetts who "appreciates nice things." Peg, who was nearly 70, wanted Mom to mail it to her son's house rather than her apartment. She promised to send his address, but then she forgot. Mom fumed. She threatened to sell her fur on E-Bay! Peg finally sent the address, apologizing for not knowing that the disposition of the fur was "such an emergency." With address in hand, I spent $30.00 to Fed-Ex the thing to Massachusetts. Peg's a classy lady. She wrote Mom a note thanking her for the lovely fur jacket.

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