January 22, Elizabeth Skladany

Coat of Many Colors

 I was 26, living back at home with my family, rebuilding my life after many years of undiagnosed anxiety and depression had led to a nervous breakdown.

After my doctors prescribed the medications that would save my sanity and I started regular talk therapy, I improved. I remember that first triumphant day when I was able to dress myself, eat an entire slice of buttered toast, and then sit in the backyard with the sun on my face and experience a calm mind.

But, even though I was healing, I needed to get back to work to make real progress. I thrive when I’m productive, so when my mind and body were steady, I started framing pictures again. It had been my summer job in college, and it fed me in many ways – talking about artwork with my customers, meticulously cutting mats and glass, carefully joining frames, making it all perfect.

One fall evening, a woman with wild, curly, dark hair came into the shop where I worked. She had a sweet smile and was clutching a small canvas. She immediately launched into the story of the painting, which a friend had made for her. I don’t remember what it looked like, but I remember she loved it. She was easygoing, and we quickly found a frame she liked.

After I finished writing up her order, she grabbed my hand. “I have something I want to give you.”

As I followed her out to her car, she explained she had bought a coat online that didn’t fit, and she’d been procrastinating returning it. “Now I know why I still have it – I’m supposed to give it to you.” She opened the trunk and pulled out an expensive, faux-shearling coat, embellished with colorful swirls of embroidery.

“I can’t take this,” I told her, but she insisted I try it on. The coat was soft and warm. She stood back and looked at me. “It looks beautiful on you. It’s yours.”

Winters have always been difficult for me. I had worried that my newfound emotional stability might disintegrate as the days got shorter and the temperatures dropped, but every morning when I put on that coat, I felt peaceful. I don’t know what moved that stranger to bestow such generosity on me, but she unknowingly helped preserve a fragile, healing mind, and I will be forever grateful.

–Elizabeth Skladany

Boston, Massachusetts


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