36: Worth More than Money

36: Worth More than Money

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Worth More than Money

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.

~Abraham Lincoln

I slid my arms into my old gray coat and buttoned it as I looked at the wear around the sleeves. I hated that coat. Hated having hand-me-downs that neighbors had discarded as not good enough for themselves.

Biting my tongue, I forced a smile as Mom handed me my school lunch. “You could use a new coat,” she said. “We’ll have to see what we can do about that.” She patted my shoulder as I hurried out the door, hoping she didn’t see the tears in my eyes.

Seeing what she could do about it meant she’d find another old, used-up coat for me. I brushed the tears away and took a deep breath. The fall air was getting crisper. Soon winter would be upon us. I shivered, pulling my coat tightly around me. It did little good to wish that my parents had money like my friends’ parents had. With six kids to feed, there was little cash left to spend on clothes and I couldn’t remember when my mother had ever had a new coat. I told myself that I’d better get used to wearing castoffs. At least I had a coat, even if it wasn’t fancy.

“Look what the neighbors sent over,” Mom said, a few days later. She was beaming as she caressed a soft, short-sleeved sweater. She handed it to me. “This will look lovely on you. The collar is so soft.”

I ran my fingers over the white angora collar. It was the softest thing I’d ever felt and added a beautiful touch to the bright red of the sweater.

“And look at these,” she continued, as she lay two skirts side-by-side on the sofa.

My jaw dropped. One skirt was pink and the other was light blue. My older sister and I could each have one.

There were other things too, but these were my favorites. I lay awake a long time that night, suddenly grateful that our neighbors grew tired of their clothes.

The next morning I put on my old gray coat. I buttoned it, kissed Mom goodbye and turned toward the door. She was smiling. “Yes,” she said, almost to herself, “you definitely need a new coat.”

Mom had a twinkle in her eye and a hum on her lips for the next few days. She was up to something, but what?

The weather suddenly turned cold. I put an extra sweater under my old coat and tied a scarf around my neck, but the wind chilled me to the bone, long before I ever reached school. I was still shivering when I went to bed that night, and Mom looked worried.

I had a fitful sleep. My room was upstairs and therefore usually quiet, but that night I thought I heard a sewing machine whirring all night. I pulled the covers up to my neck and put the pillow over my head. Finally, I dozed off.

Wind whistled, blowing snow into drifts. I groaned the next morning as I looked out the window. I had to go to school and I shivered at the thought of another cold walk in my threadbare coat.

Mom looked tired as she made us breakfast. But there was a twinkle in her eye and she was back to humming.

As usual, I was the last one to leave for school. As I sullenly slid into my gray coat and began buttoning it, Mom said, “Why don’t you leave that old thing at home?” Then, before I could answer she slipped into the living room, returning with a beautiful green coat that sported a real fur collar. “Try this on,” she said proudly.

It fit perfectly. I marveled at the softness of the green wool fabric, the heavy lining and the light-brown fur of the collar. “Where did you get it?” I was in awe.

She smiled. “It was in the box of clothes that we were given. I altered it to fit you.”

“You mean, it was for a lady, and it would have fit you, Mom?”

“I suppose it might have,” she nodded, reaching out to help me button the coat. “But you need a coat more than I do. And look how lovely it looks on you. Now hurry up, slowpoke, or you’ll be late for school.”

I wrapped my arms around my mother; my heart so filled will love for this woman who had always put her family’s needs above her own. Who could ever ask for more than that? My friends’ families might be better off financially than we were. But I had Mom, and she was worth far more than any amount of money.

~Chris Mikalson

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