I have two hot pink coats in my closet. One is a heavy duty coat. Another is a light rain coat. They both serve different purposes, and they both came to me from different avenues. I've had one for over twenty years; I've had the other for only two months. The first coat was made for me, the second coat was purchased as a direct result of my purse being stolen from me.
The first coat reminds me of my Grandmother's love; the other coat will always remind me of this particular season in my life, an amazing group of women that I get to see a few times a week, and it will always remind me of this year, which is turning out to truly be the Year of the Woman.
Let me tell you about the first coat. My Dad's mother made it for me. Her name was Eva Mae, but we called her Grandma. I remember her as just a very happy, busy person for most of her life. She was busy in the kitchen, busy in the garden at the farm, busy sewing. She was never idle, and never watched TV. She taught me a great deal about life. I remember one time when she was worried about me, because I was sad about the death of a high school friend in a tragic motorcycle accident. She said to me: "Sydney, sometimes you just choose to be happy." She made it easy to believe her, because she was just so happy. Incidentally, she also tried to teach me to cover up and use sun screen, and use lifejackets, etc. . . . She was part Native American -- only a quarter, but she was always conscious of keeping her skin light. America was still a quite prejudiced place back then. It was only after I started purposefully reading Native American authors that I realized how much the good planted within me that came from her was due to her Native American heritage. In her attempt to hide from the prejudice of her day, that heritage was almost hidden as well, but thankfully it was passed on because it was the essence of her.
I loved her so much, we all did. And she was an amazing seamstress. She made all of our prom dresses and even some of our wedding dresses. I always thought I would learn how to sew from her . . . tomorrow. But by the time I was out of school, by the time I got married, she'd had a debilitating stroke on the right side of her body. So she never made me a wedding dress, but she made me a coat. The most well made coat I have even seen or used.
She called me out of the blue one day and said: "Sydney, I found some old material that I had in a trunk to make a coat for you aunt, but I never made it. Can I make you a coat?"
"It's pink. You are the only one that can wear this color."
"Great! I love pink!"
When you grow up in North West Texas, you need a coat or ten. I had a wardrobe full of coats, never enough coats because we lived in the Siberia of Texas where the wind blows, and blows, and blows, with nothing to stop it unless you have a tree break. There is usually snow on Christmas, blizzards of snow, mounds of snow. Not that it snows that much, but it snows enough, and then the wind blows it into high drifts. It is cold! So I was happy for another coat.
Now, she did warn me, she told me it was pink. And she told me that I was the only grandaughter that could -- or perhaps would -- wear it. I have always liked to wear clothes that stand out. Second daughter, middle child screaming out: "HEY!! I'm HERE!!!" That whole second daughter, loudmouth thing is part of why I identify with Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. And, although I did get quite enough love in my childhood, I have to chuckle at Roxy's line in the play Chicago about her lovin' the audience and them lovin' her and they just lovvvveeed each other, and that's because they didn't get enough love in their childhood. Love, love, love. Personally, I don't think any of us can get enough of it.
And that is what that coat is to me. My PINK non technicolor dream coat. My HOT pink coat. It is SO warm. So well sewn. So pretty. Starting to fray, but pretty. My HOT pink coat with a red button, but it works because the coat is more red than pink, a button that is still securely fastened after 25 years. I can wear it on any cold day and not be cold. And no one will ever fail to see me and accidentally run over me, even in a blizzard. It was the same color as the hot pink "in" color of the year: "neon" pink. It is the coat that I will keep all of my life, and wear with the knowledge that Grandma loved me. It reminds me of me, reminds me of her, reminds me of the farm, reminds me of Plainview, reminds me of growing up, of childhood, of all the good that I learned, of all the things that made me into who I am in that near barren land. It reminds me of the strong feminine movement that I grew up in. It reminds me of the women in my family, who, whether due to our hidden Native American heritage or some other tradition, had never grown up with any kind of belief that they should be the strong-silent-yes-sir types. It reminds me of the men who love our bossy, loud, strong feminine ways.
Fast forward from the 1980s to this year, 2013. I won't give you the back story of my purse being stolen, but here is the link: Les Miserables, Paris Texas style.
When my purse was stolen, I was down to that one purse, so I had to go buy a new one, right away. I saw a silver lining when I saw in The Paris News the ad that the Collegiate Shoppe was having its annual blow out sale the next day. I had a Christmas gift certificate there, so I went as early as I could, and was able to call my father-in-law and let him know that I had tripled his gift. I came home with purses, and I came home with my new Hot Pink stylish raincoat. Here in Paris, you need more rain coats and lightweight coats than heavy coats.
I'm happy that I can still wear that color. Yes, it is an "I'm HERE" color, which I guess I still haven't grown out of, but it also a happy color. I feel that I have won something of a battle when it is a grey rainy day and I can thumb my nose at it with my hot pink rain coat.
It's a feminine coat, too. A coat that is proud to belong to a woman. And this woman has happily been wearing it to the play practice that is different from any play practice I have ever been involved in.
I've been in an all female cast before when I played Truvy in "Steele Magnolias" and what a wonderful experience that was. But each play experience is different, and this all female cast in "The Vagina Monologues" -- due to its monologue nature, is having much more of a womanhood celebration fest. We've started getting to know each other well enough to start talking excitedly between practicing the few group peices -- we are a choral song of femininity, making each other laugh, cry and lean in or, yes, even raise our eyebrows in shock then giggle helplessly. We are learning alot from each other. Mostly, we are learning that we need each other, we are remembering that we are all in this together. We are embracing womankind. We are proud to be V-Girls, and we want you to join us (reserve your tickets here: The Vagina Monologues Paris, Texas tickets for more information, see).
We have womanhood so much on the brain that we are noticing symbols of womanhood everywhere. We are noticing articles and reports about women, good and bad. This is the year of the Global 1 Billion Rising movement, drawing attention to the fact that we want violence against women to END. It is the year that the National Book Award for Fiction went to Louise Erdrich's book "The Round House" -- about the injustice of Native American female rape victims having no ability to prosecute their perpetrators due to conflict of laws (see article in The Paris News The Round House Review ). It is the year that our voices were heard so that Congress renewed and strengthened the Violence Against Women Act -- VAWA. It is the year that PBS is running stories about the American female experience. It is the year that I can't pick up a book without there being some discussion about the experience of womankind. It is the year that we are starting to remember the marches of 100 years ago, and how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. We are passing on stories of what life was like before birth control, or the equal rights amendment. We are understanding that women do still care about our history and that we do want to hold on to what we have and that we do still want to make it better.
So I Celebrate Womanhood. I celebrate it with my my pink coats and their symbolism of womankind, and our history, love, and strength. I will celebrate it by sharing about some books I have read that in some way are meaningful to the female experience. I'll celebrate it by sharing some writings that these "V Girls" have given to me, or by telling you about them. I know you'll enjoy the hot pink experience as much as I am.