Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Return of the Ghost Coat

Ever since a neighbor's funeral in 2005, the Ghost Coat has haunted our household. Mom wanted to wear her "good, white coat" to that funeral and sent me to get it from her "overflow closet" in our daughter's former bedroom. I brought the coat I thought she wanted.

"This is NOT my good, white coat!" she said, in disgust. "The one I'm talking about is 3/4 length and has big patch pockets." I returned to the closet. There was no white coat matching her description. I searched through the few coats in the tiny coat closet in Mom's "apartment." No coat. "Where COULD it be?" she muttered.

For the next three years, she fretted obsessively about that coat. When Phil suggested, on the day of the funeral, that she might have left it somewhere by mistake, she treated his suggestion as a cover-up. Obviously, he was trying to turn the spotlight of suspicion away from me. I must have given her coat away to the church rummage sale. When I assured her that I had not, she would reply, "Well, then, WHERE is it?" I hadn't a clue, so therefore I must have given it away.

"Mom, I don't even remember this coat," I said.

"You ask the girls," she said. "They appreciate nice things. They'll know what coat I'm talking about." I asked our daughters. They hadn't a clue either.

She kept obsessing about it. Two years ago, on the way home from a disappointing visit to the dermatologoist--he refused to remove some non-cancerous growths on her neck because of her age--she announced, "Well, there's one thing we have to settle once and for all!"

"What's that?"

"I need to know what you did with my good, white coat."

"Mom," I said, wearily, "I didn't do anything with your coat. I don't even remember this coat. I would never give away any of your things to a rummage sale. What more can I say?"

A long discussion ensued.

Finally, she sighed, "Well, if you didn't take it, who did? Someone must have come into my room and taken that coat out of my closet."

"I don't think anyone took your coat. I have no idea what happened to it. It's a mystery."

She considered this for a minute. Then she said, "Well, I guess you didn't take it after all. I've prayed a lot about this. I asked God to forgive you, because if you took that coat, it would have been a black mark against you in his book. It's a mystery, all right, but I still wish I knew what happened to it."

That was the last I heard about the white coat.

Last week, a call from Purple Heart spurred me into action. A donation truck was coming to our neighborhood. I spent last Saturday cleaning out Mom's closets, washing and sorting clothes to be given away.

In Mom's tiny coat closet, I found several coats, including a coat I had never seen before. White wool, black buttons, 3/4 length, big patch pockets. Here, at last, was the "good, white coat." Who knows how and when it ended up there? Heaven knows I looked through that closet dozens of times, searching for that coat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Raccoon Dinner on Groundhog Day

A postcard summoning us to the Danville, Ohio Lions' Club's 65th Annual Raccoon Dinner arrived several weeks ago. Phil and I dutifully loaded the pit bull and the mini-shepherd into the car and headed for our cabin in Knox County. This festive community fundraiser happened to fall on February 2nd this year. Phil's sister, Cathy, arrived from Marietta on Monday afternoon. She and I donned our new raccoon socks and headed for Danville. Phil followed, stopping on the way to pick up our good friend and neighbor, David.

Hundreds of people crowded into Saint Luke's Community Center for the dinner. The rafters were hung with icicle lights. Tickets for several fifty-fifty drawings were raffled off, and also a hunting rifle. Cathy won $111.00 at the the fifty-fifty drawn at 6 PM. None of us held the winning ticket for the hunting rifle, which was just as well, since at least three of us are probably too old at this point to learn to shoot straight. People come from miles around for this event. I don't think Joe the Plumber showed up, but the diner who traveled the greatest distance came from Sydney, Australia.

Here's what we had for dinner: baked raccoon, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls, and homemade cake. YUM! Although raccoon does not taste like chicken, it's not that bad. Kind of reminds me of beef. The raccoons are trapped during raccoon season. They are frozen until the weekend before the dinner, when about 25 volunteers turn on their ovens. They dust the cut-up raccons with flour and brown them in Crisco before baking them to fork-tenderness.

Cathy had some homework to do before a meeting of the Muskingum Valley Presbytery in New Philadelphia, OH, the next day, so we two did not stay for the after-dinner program. After the crowd was serenaded by Danville High School's own "Devil Land Jazz Band", they enjoyed a talk by Bill Hosket, who was an All American at Ohio State University and a member of the U.S. basketball team that won a gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.