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James R. Stout

Fine Art Photography

The Coat Of One Color

This time in 1977 was rather tough for me. I was married for just over a year. We had just gone through a bad health scare with my wife. We were broke and literally living hand to mouth. My job was a complete horror and things seemed to have no light on the horizon. We decided given our financial situation that we would not give each other Christmas gifts. What little money we had for gifts would be spent on our families. A scented candle in a colored glass holder, a bottle of Old Spice, a set of homemade pot holders, and the like were what he had to give. 
One day in the middle of November we went to a mall just to walk around. As we went to leave we were walking through Palais Royal and my wife saw a rack of coats. She was still wearing a well worn coat that was about 6 or 7 years old. It was more styled for a 13 year-old given it was her coat from 7th grade! She saw a rather plain yet pretty coat on the rack. A beige coat that was long, down to about her knees. I told her to try it on, but she knew we couldn’t afford it. I said it wouldn’t hurt to see how it looked. So she put it on and stood in front of a mirror. She looked beautiful to me. She was still terribly thin from her recent sickness, but she was beautiful. 
She took the coat off and I could see tears in her eyes. The price tag said $80. A fortune we didn’t have. She deserved better. We made a joke just to lighten the mood and left the mall.
Later that day she and her mother went out somewhere and I drove back to the mall. I went and got the coat and asked if they had lay-away. They did. I had just $15 dollars in my pocket and less than that in the bank. It took $12 to put it on lay-away - 15% down. 
Over the next 4 weeks I found a way to come up with the $18 a week needed. I didn’t eat lunch at work. I sold some of records at a used record shop. I sold some paperback books. I volunteered to work on Saturdays half a day for the extra $15 after taxes.
Finally, two days before Christmas I paid the last payment. I had “The Coat of One Color” boxed up and went to my parent’s house, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and put it in the corner hidden by the Christmas tree. 
My family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas eve. 1977 was no different. We got over to Mom and Dad’s house around 6:30. We both had worked that day, but were glad to help get the Christmas dinner ready while watching “White Christmas” on TV. I made up for all the missed lunches that night!
After clearing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen we all gathered in the living room and stood around the piano singing Christmas carols. Then it was time to open gifts. After the gifts were opened someone said that there was still one behind tree. I asked Patti if she would get it since she was the slimmest one there! She went behind the tree and came out with the package. My sister Debbie asked who was it for. Patti looked at the tag and her eyes grew large. “It’s to me from Randy.” Then she smiled and looking at me said, “You rat! I didn’t get you anything because we agreed!” But I could tell she was happy. 
She slowly tore off the wrapping paper and opened the box. Her eyes grew wide again and then she started to cry. Geez, but I’ve been a sucker for a crying woman all my life! She took the coat out and stroked it’s soft lining with love. She then put the coat on and modeled it for us. She did look fetching! A big hug followed. It had been a small price to pay to see her happy and knowing she was loved. Oh, and for what it’s worth, she ended up giving me a great Christmas present later that night at home!

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