March 27, 2013: Big Bird Revival

Photo by Grant (my very reliable photographer)
I decided to break out my yellow sweater today. I am guessing the inspiration was Easter. It reminded me of a blog I wrote some time back after the purchase of this canary treasure. Today will be a blog repeat...
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People are known to have flashbacks to traumatic childhood experiences. Memories that are in the dark recesses of their mind and triggered back to the present by some trivial incident. I just had this happen to me. Fortunately my lost memory didn't entail physical harm or something incredibly sad. Don't get me wrong; at the time it was devastating to me. But I can now chalk it up to yet one more childhood experience that helped thicken my skin.


The flashback came to me just an hour ago at work.  I was sitting at my desk; quietly working.  One of my partners, Scott, walked by my office and commented in passing, "Hey...great sweater.  Love the yellow on you."  Love the yellow...wow...a memory was triggered.  

Now let's go back to the lost memory.  The setting was 1977 in the dead of a cold Iowa winter. I was a 5th Grader at Remsen St. Mary's grade school. My mom's role as the family wardrober is the focal point of this story.  To give you a little insight on my amazingly talented mom; she made (sewed) virtually all of our clothes as kids.  Every shirt, vest, pant, and dress were handmade by Mom.

Mom loved a challenge and would take on robes, Sunday dresses, and overalls.  No sewing challenge seemed too much for her. But there were limitations that led Mom to purchase some of our clothing items.  Winter coats that could handle the bitter Iowa cold were one of these.  Equally talented as a shopper, Mom would wait until the end of the season and to buy our winter coats on sale. These store bought clothes were a special treat, hand picked and paid for by Mom. 


At the end of the winter season that year, Mom was on the prowl for some after-Christmas sales on winter coats.  She came home, obviously pleased, with a large bag and a big smile. Mom found what she thought was the perfect coat for me. Out of bag was the reveal of an over-sized bright yellow knee-length coat. It was puffy and hooded with a thin apple green stripe on the waistline. Other than this green stripe, the entire coat was bright canary yellow; all the way to the fur-look fleece outlining the hood.

My gut reaction was that that this wasn’t good.  Mom felt otherwise…a beautiful coat and a great find that would fit me through the next winter too!  More panic…I really knew this wasn’t good.  But I couldn’t hurt my mom’s feelings or be ungrateful for this store bought purchase, so I hesitantly wore it to school the next day.
Through the hustle and bustle of the school hallway, there were no compliments or comments on my coat from my classmates. The only reaction were some funny looks.  I was old enough to know that this wasn’t a good sign.  I quickly stuffed the coat (with quite a bit of effort) into my locker.  Lunchtime arrived and it was time to parade in my new coat again.

All lunches were served at our high school, so we would walk five blocks daily to eat lunch. We also ate in waves of two classes at a time.  Our 5th grade class ate with the 6th graders.  As we entered the cafeteria, the 6th graders did not feel the need to give me the same break on my flamboyant coat as my 5th grade counterparts. “Hey, look, it’s Big Bird!!!” one boy yelled. The circle of kids around him laughed. I was mortified. There I stood in my new yellow coat knowing they were right; I looked exactly like Big Bird.
This was the year of the parka. Every kid had a parka in navy, black, or maroon. Instead I was a canary among mice with my Big Bird coat. I ignored my adversaries and surrounded myself with friends. It was my first experience with pure embarrassment and humiliation.

For weeks that same boy taunted me daily with Big Bird comments to the chagrin of his friends.  But I couldn’t hurt my mom’s feelings nor could I expect her to buy me another coat, so I followed the same routine day after day.  I wore the yellow coat, was heckled at lunch, and ignored the antagonists.  I think they finally tired of no response to their teasing.  Eventually I stopped hearing the Big Bird comments.

The blessing in disguise was that the yellow coat showed dirt easily and was filthy by the end of that winter.  My mom deemed it ruined.  Although this was a sad day for Mom, it was a happy day for me.  Big Bird would not be flying back the next winter.  And by the way, I was the proud recipient of a hand-me-down parka the next winter.  It was navy blue.      


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