Friday, November 9, 2007


In the last year of her life, my grandmother found a curious new calling as a memoirist. Several of her essays were published by the in-house newsletter at her assisted living community. My favorite is the one I've reproduced here, in honor of her interment today.



by Mildred Mammano

Women as a group have been known to love to shop, especially for bargains. Actually so do men, but it isn’t touted about as freely. I, too, stand accused of weakness, and I admit to the flaw in my otherwise flawless character.

Being a newly married young woman living on a limited income, my opportunities for this indulgence were infrequent to say the least. That’s not to say I didn’t lust nor dream of the fashionable life, of some day saying “the devil take frugality—and the weekly budget.” A little self-indulgence is good for the soul.

Having laid my cards on the table, I informed my husband I was planning a shopping trip to New York. He looked surprised, but knew determination when he saw it. Beyond all reason and common sense, I felt free to indulge the current mood of unrestrained financial liberation. Need enforced my resolution, and I did need a new winter coat. Instead of going to Klein’s, I headed straight toward Saks Fifth Avenue—right into the domain of smart, fashionable women with no financial constraints.

I reveled in the atmosphere of quiet, sedate orderliness, the soft perfumed air, the absence of hordes of women poring over the bargain table. This was the life! I then turned to serious matters, namely my future winter coat. Fate slipped in and led me to the coat that not even my wildest fantasy could conjure. It was a gorgeous green wool, well tailored—topped off by the most luxuriant collar of lynx fur I had ever seen. It snuggled up to the ears and down across the shoulders—a perfect fit. I simply couldn’t put it back on the rack. It became my coat. At all costs I had to have it!

I summoned the manager and explained that I didn’t have the cash: I could not easily make it back to the city and needed to take the coat home with me—if he couldn’t agree to my terms, there would be no sale. I was not leaving without the coat. I suggested he call my husband at work to verify my identity and offered to leave a small deposit. He looked at me as if questioning my sanity, coolly countering with: “That’s against store policy.”

My response? “Make an exception!” He looked me over and studied my NY Central train ticket carefully. With a deep breath he finally uttered a reluctant okay. It is thus that I boarded the train again with my prize in hand—the golden fleece.

My husband never uttered a word of reproach about my extravagance, so incredulous was he about my having made away with the coat on the strength of a minimal deposit. I could hear him muttering, “How did she do it? How did she do it?”


While we were all keeping vigil by her bedside on the night she died, my brother pulled out his laptop and started scrolling through archival family photos. When he got to this one, which I'd never seen before, I instantly knew that this photo was taken to commemorate the events chronicled above.

My grandmother saved the fur collar long after the woolen body of this coat had worn to threads.


Anonymous said...

{sniff} Your grandmother was an incredible woman. Thanks for sharing her essay and the photo.


Be Inspired Always said...

Beautiful post about your grandmother.


RuthWells said...

Thanks, dears. Sniff.