The Precious Green Coat

Not everyone has one; not everyone needs one; not everyone wants one–but I have, did need, and wanted a green Chinese coat.  When you read those words, you are probably thinking of a silken robe-like coat which would keep only a slight breeze at bay.

No….this is a coat.  But you are half right.  I was in China, my first trip–and it was November. It doesn’t take a genius to look at a globe and know that a light sweater won’t do the trick if one needed to be warm in any country at that late-year date.  At that time,  China still had two kinds of shops:  one for the locals and one for wealthy locals and visitors.  I went into the local shop…..and there it was…..a traditional, heavily-padded coat and it just oozed warmth when one looked at it.  

I paid $10 US for the coat; over two decades later it still hangs in my closet. I’ve worn it once in public–in a late November high school football game in California’s Central Valley.  I was “on duty” as a supervisor of what few Tulare Union students had followed the team, and, to make things worse,  basketball is my game and I truly dislike football.  But I was warm!

Someone told me later–a “friend”–that I resembled a large green elephant seated in the grandstands that night.  I’ve tried to “spin” that as a compliment, but never succeeded.

It takes up a great deal of room in my closet, and I’m trying to “cut down” on “stuff.”  I’ve taken seven or eight packed boxes of books to the local library; I’ve sorted through “brilliant things” and I’ve re-written and actually tossed some of those; I’m left with the closet—and the green coat.

I will not give it up.  It’s a part of China’s history—and part of my history.  Perhaps I’ll lose enough weight not to be confused with an elephant if I ever wear it in public…..which I won’t…lose weight or wear it.

The other item you should take with you when in China is a head scarf.  Not to honor churches you might enter; that won’t be a problem.  It’s to have it handy in case one of those breezes doesn’t “loft”, they blow off of what in Russia are called the “steppes”……I don’t know what the Chinese call those chilling winds, but I call them “truly cold.”  However,  I’m sorry, I won’t loan you my green coat.

 (A much more complete picture of China, its culture, etc., is found in “China Caper,” a novel  coming out in the fall.  Briana, the US courier–whom you met/will meet in the current “Argentine Assignment” and this fall’s “Belize Barter”–is on the trail of individuals who are stealing a part of China’s history–its artifacts.)


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