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Midway through my second Connecticut winter I knew there weren’t enough sweaters, scarves, coats or gloves in my California closet to keep me warm. Every walk from house to car, parking lot to office or store was a frozen dread. My friend’s garage was cold enough to refrigerate her leftover holiday party food. Her deck snow she used as a freezer. I found out why gloves should be lined.
The first winter I worked there meant one trip a month to visit my New England client. It was fun. Enjoyed my work, was stimulated by students, got a kick from being known as the touchy-feely trainer from California. Cold weather was part of the deal, a mere inconvenience. Mostly an adventure to an enchanted part of the country.
The contract was renewed, more classes, more departments. As the second snowy winter drew to a close, I was making two trips a month to frozen tundra, each for a week, and chatter began about another extension, a third year.
Cherished friend, Lola, charged herself with my east coast well-being and it was in her home I stayed. Dear girl, put three comforters on my bed and sent her dog in, too. She suggested a trip to a furrier might be in order. My husband didn’t concur but then again, he was 2700 miles away.
Ah. Furs. A staple of any well-heeled New England woman. Maybe not a necessity but certainly a garment put to good use. Not the stuff of Hollywood glam and opening night at the opera, as I was accustomed, but a way to keep warm. Not PETA and protests but comfort in inclement weather.
Ching ching. I bet this costs money, I thought. Lola assured me vendors would be looking to unload winter wares with bargain prices and I might be surprised. I went for the ride.
It’s then I met Big Red. She was lounging around the sale rack.
$4,000 to $3,300, to $2,500 and finally, as though she could command no more, $600 for a red mink coat. No doubt, an insult to her smooth satin lining, her deep, warm black velvet pockets, and her upright sense of style.
Big Red had been the object of indignities and scorn and though she attempted to blend with her less trendy cousins, they turned their backs on her. After all, she wasn’t even really a coat, but a stroller. No self-respecting, acceptable and traditionally stylish Connecticut lady would consider reaching into her wardrobe to don a bright red mink.
She suffered the assault of multiple price cuts trying to seduce someone. Customers tried her on for a lark, played dress-up with her, used her for laughs but it always ended the same. Back on the rack, hanging askew, talked about as they snickered and walked away. Would Red ever find a home?
Now you know the answer to that...
Red leapt from the hanger and into my arms. She hugged me and cooed. And Lola? No help at all as Red clung to my back.
“She’s born to be yours. Unusual, stylish, fun. And look at the price! How can you resist?”
Big Red, natch, nodding yes! yes! the whole time. Her best sultry voice. I can show you a real good time.
How could I say no? I was cold and she was warm, she was lonesome and I had friends. She’d been stalled for months and I had places to go. She was a stylin' babe, and I was -- well, kinda bland. We needed each other. Of that there was no doubt.
It's been years. We're still great pals and I have no regrets. But she took plenty o' getting used to. For instance, Red has no shame and she’s always on parade. Keeps her own social calendar, and only sometimes does she let me tag along.
I’ve worn her into companies of serious scientific women who start squealing with girlish delight begging to touch her, stroke her, maybe even model her from time to time. Big Red never says no. She lets everyone cop a feel.
Flight attendants sneak a wear. They tell me Red calls to them from the airplane coat closet begging to be let out. Once an executive friend arranged a party for Big Red, sending me an email while I was on the job. Told her colleagues about the coat and everyone wanted to meet her. Big Red, she sashayed right on in knowing the do was in her honor, and I finally had to yank her out. I’d been working all day while she’d been lying around. Even on a good day, I can't keep up with Red.
In a restaurant a woman popped by my table asking to borrow Big Red for her dining companions to greet. They'd been completely distracted, hadn’t taken their eyes off her from the moment she entered the place. Big Red ditched me and partied her way across the room, had cocktails with total strangers.
All that time hangin’ at the furrier without the proper respect, I expect it turned her into a hussy that’ll go with anyone who pays her attention.
It’s always the same, Big Red stops ‘em dead. Men 20 years younger than I suddenly need to chat. I’m not fooled. Got nothin’ to do with me. Big Red. She has some song men hear I don’t even know she’s singin’. Their eyes start dancing and they think I’m something. Oh, Red, please, I gotta plane to catch. Can’t you turn it off?
Big Red and I finished our gig in Connecticut. She’s bi-coastal now. She winters with me in California, and we keep each other cozy warm. First drop in temp to 59 -- enough for Red to knock on the closet door. She can’t wait to come out to play.
Big Red, World Traveler with her French sister, in Aix-en-Provence
She spends summers in Connecticut where I send her for sprucing and storage. She's some aloof with them after her unfortunate experience but they’re nonetheless happy to see her. Maybe a little fatigued having seen so many seasons. They say she’ll soon give up. It might be time to retire her. Clear they still have no clue about her stamina (or need to socialize). I press them a bit till they find a way to fix her up, always sayin’, just one more time.
Soon someone will say that about me, too, no doubt, but I intend to take Big Red's route and stupefy 'em all.
She’ll walk her walk, and talk her talk. Then you'll note you'd like one touch. Consider yourself a goner.
If you find you're another victim fallen for her charm, please remember that she's mine. Inside, close to her breast, my initials seal our deal. As night winds down, I'm proud to say, Red always rides with me.