I wrote about my late husband’s barn jacket a number of years ago when I was adjusting to widowhood. I explained how I tried to sell the jacket for fifty cents in a yard sale and, when there were no buyers, how I paid to have it dry-cleaned, thinking it would come out looking less disgusting. It didn’t.
When I moved from the house John and I’d shared to one two-thirds smaller, when I theoretically gave away two-thirds of my stuff, somehow the barn jacket once again survived the purge. John called it his barn jacket because at one time in his life he had horses—a lot of them—and wore this jacket to muck out the barn. By the time we married he’d given up horses, but we had dogs. John wore the barn jacket when cleaning the dog kennel.
And that’s the thing. In our marriage we pretty much didn’t follow traditional gender assignments when it came to household chores. He did most of the cooking, I did most of the laundry, and we hired someone else to clean the house. He took it upon himself, however, to shovel the dog poop. It was a lot. We always had at least two dogs—at one point three. He never complained, never suggested I join the fun. I never fully appreciated it until he couldn’t do it anymore. The task fell to me, and what a revelation that was!
Now when I shovel dog poop in winter or run the snow blower, I don the barn jacket, more for inner strength than for warmth. The fabric may be seriously frayed, but this jacket has within it a mysterious moral fiber.
(To celebrate my 75th birthday this month, I’m posting daily stories about the stuff I’ve acquired over a lifetime and can’t let go of. I invite you to consider the stories that make you treasure your own stuff—maybe even share them.)