Thursday, January 12, 2012

Leopard-Skin Coats

Back through the years
I go wanderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
…one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat…my momma made for me
(Dolly Parton)

I’ve blogged previously about my childhood, my family’s meager financial existence, and my parents’ ability to stretch a dollar around to seven children. My dad now jokes that I can pinch a penny until it squeals. I say, “Takes one to know one.”

My mother made our clothes until we were old enough to earn money to buy clothes. A store-bought outfit was a special treat reserved for Christmas.

Remember the Dolly Parton song, Coat of Many Colors? My mother’s version was the leopard-skin print she transformed into coats for the three oldest girls and herself. To get several winters’ wear, she made them a little big, which wasn’t difficult. We were so small, everything hung big on us.

Two distinct memories linger about the coat. 1) I was warm, which was a nice feeling, and 2) our coats made me feel special. After all, no one else had matching coats like we did.

I’m not sure what people thought when three little leopards and their Mama leopard strolled into church or the grocery store. I don’t remember any negative comments. And some of the church ladies oohed and aahed over our matching ensemble.

I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything in the world. In fact, I’m glad it was financially sparse. I learned a lesson so many Americans have a difficult time grasping. You can be content and have nothing. Tell that to the Occupy crowd who simultaneously embrace corporate America while slamming it.

But I digress.

Lessons learned during childhood carried me through my meager existence of early adulthood. When I had nothing else, I still had those, sustaining and reassuring me of better days ahead, if I worked hard enough. My experience also gave me great empathy for people truly in need.

Mom and Dad gave us much during those difficult times of our childhood with their hard work, determination, and perseverance, because they gave all they had.

Though her neck must have ached from bending over her work, her fingers prickling from stitching and the occasional poke of a pin, and weary from stretching money, Mom was so proud of her little girls decked out in their new leopard-print coats.

And I’m just as proud of her.


  1. Love this! Great that you can remember your youth! Growing up poor, or at least, frugal, is not a bad thing ~ it does teach you the value of a dollar and how hard it takes to make it. Thanks, Laura! Love ya, BKLaird

  2. Thanks, Brenda. Love ya, too. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Love this post, and really love the picture. Mom sewed all our clothes too, and my sister and I were always dressed in a matched set of something bright and gaudy. Those were the best days, though.

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