This is a piece I worked on in August 2011, at the Star Island Writers Workshop with writers and teachers Joyce Maynard and Robert Bausch. Joyce taught me the value of short, concice pieces – that sometimes, a rambling beginning squanders other stories that are yet to be written. The lesson in this piece was, “Get to it!”
The story stems from my journey of losing a significant amount of weight over the past few years. People often comment that they couldn’t stand to be deprived of certain foods over the long haul…but when I was extremely overweight, I experienced deprivation of a different kind.
Cold weather comes early in Michigan. By October, it was time to unpack the heavy coats and mittens. I never knew when the first skiff of snow would arrive.
I opened the closet door and pulled out my favorite coat – black wool with velvet lapels. I remembered then that the button had pulled off sometime last spring – not the way a button comes off when a thread comes loose, but actually ripped away the fabric underneath as it strained to hold the coat closed across my belly. I examined the torn spot and realized that there wasn’t space to move the button over any further. Besides, when I tugged the coat around my body, the front didn’t quite come together.
The only option was my raincoat. Its raglan sleeves were more forgiving across the mounds of fat on my back and sides. If I chose carefully, it would fit over a sweater and still button. But the raincoat didn’t have a warm lining, not even the zip out kind. So it couldn’t possibly work for the entire winter.
Or could it?
I like to think it was the thrifty side of me that spoke at that moment, reminding me that a new winter coat was expensive. But the truth is, I realized that a new coat would force me down the rack at Macy’s to the size 20’s…or 22’s.
I took a slow breath.
No. Not yet.
Not till I have to.
Who knows? Maybe it will be a mild winter.