The bespoke coat

In Rome those early years I had a coat but it was getting pretty tired looking. As my salary at ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) translated into about $75, which went mostly toward rent together with my sister Maria and bus fare, acquiring a new outer garment posed a serious conundrum. My mother kept house for us, and her hard wear fell upon her little bound feet. It was torture for her to go to market and do the necessary to manage. We all needed something or other to replenish the few things we were able to bring out of China.

A co-worker told me about layaway plans at a fabric store, and I rushed over there after work. Why yes, the store salesman assured me, I could have any kind I wanted. All I had to do was select style and fabric and put down 10% and pay so much a month for….when could I pay it off? It came out to two years, but I went for it, how else was it possible otherwise?

I chose the thickest, richest camelhair that wasn’t really camelhair but had a furry finish to it. As for style, I ordered it extra large and extra long. I wanted a lot of coat for my money. I have a photo of me wearing it in the Borghese Gardens. I looked lost in its folds and probably weary of its weight, but it was a grand garment.

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