The Hand Me Down Coat

"You're getting a new coat," Brad was excited for his older brother that fall. "Yes, and you're getting mine," his older brother stated right back.

It seemed that both boys were growing so fast. Craig was two years older than Brad and already taller than my 5'6" frame in 6th grade. He was a constant eater and never gained a pound. Brad followed right behind him, they were growing out of everything!

"Brad, I said, "Do you mind having Craig's coat this winter to wear? It is in good condition, it just doesn't fit him any longer." I felt bad, but boots were important and they needed gloves too, especially for the snow days that would soon be upon us.

"No, Mom," Brad looked thoughtful. "I think it will fit and feel okay this year." I was grateful for his willing attitude.

That winter was cold and the coat did a good job of keeping Brad warm. With items needed for fall soccer and other activities, I was glad we could get by without the expense of a new coat.

But, another year came around and our growing boys would be needing new boots and coats again. I checked out their growth spurt. I knew Craig wouldn't mind wearing his coat again, I'd just extend the cuffs a bit, and Brad, well, Brad's cuffs couldn't be extended, so I made sure his gloves were longer and replaced the bad zipper. Their coats worked for another winter.    

By the next fall both boys were in junior high and would be needing so many things.  As I worked out a budget we would use for Christmas, just a couple months away. I compared their wants with their needs. Craig had earned some money shoveling snow and doing some lawn work, and he had his eyes set on a special jacket that year. We were grateful he decided to use his money for clothing. Our daughter in high school, earned her money baby-sitting, often buying her own things. But Brad had used his brothers coat for two winters and he really needed a new one. I prayed especially hard because I knew how much a good coat would cost.

I was walking through the department store looking for some sale items for their Christmas when the rack nearby drew my attention. There were coats and jackets for half price. Brad was getting so tall, and I doubted his size would be among those on sale. But as I checked out the merchandise, I saw a coat that looked larger than most, it looked great! It was well made and felt so warm, in dark blue. It had a zipper but also snaps and so many pockets I couldn't believe it! It might even be a bit large for Brad, but he would be able to wear it for another winter, and it was so nice looking, he could wear it to Church as well as school.

The kids were busy preparing for the Christmas Eve service. Craig was a shepherd who would stand with Mary and Joseph and two other shepherds in front of the manger located in the Church foyer, as people went into the hall leading to the sanctuary. Brad was in the brass ensemble and played the trombone. Their older sister would be singing in the chorus. As everyone was getting their clothing and outfits on that evening, my husband and I decided to call Brad into the kitchen. I didn't have the heart to make him wait until Christmas. This was a special evening and he had his dark pants and white shirt on, looking so nice.

"Brad," his Dad said, "We wanted to give you this early so you could use it tonight." My husband handed him the large box.

Brad's eyes became full and happy as he pulled out the coat.. He put it right on and came over and gave us each a big hug. "Wow,  Mom and Dad, this is great, and the hidden pockets inside are supper. Thanks!" He looked  6 feet tall, which he almost was! It was a perfect fit!

"Brad," I said, "You were patient to wait over two years for this, wearing the coat of your brothers. You never complained and that meant a lot to us."

"I didn't mind Mom, it is still an okay coat, maybe somebody else can wear it now."

The Christmas Eve service seemed so special that night, each one doing their own parts, thankful for God's Son who came to be our Savior. However, we also realized the special gift we got back, the appreciation of a son who was thankful.

Years have gone by since that night, a time which Brad still remembers. We kept all kinds of jerseys from sports to an expensive letter jacket in high school, but that coat was a favorite, and he wore it for quite a while, after all, it had so many pockets!

Maybe he learned more from not getting new things, than many children who do. And it probably didn't bother him nearly as much as it did us, those few years when we had to decide where to pinch pennies. The coat with all the pockets shall remain in my mind for a long time. But the love from a child who never complained about wearing hand-me-downs, is a blessing every parent should be fortunate to have.

(c) 2001 Diane Dean White

Diane is a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer. She and her husband Stephen are the parents of three grown children and two grandgals. They make their home on the Carolina Coast where Diane continues her love for writing.

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