My kids are both angling for new winter coats. Holly has grown disenchanted with the style of hers, which we just bought last year, but Noah has grown several inches since last winter and really needs one. Maybe he’ll want to give his old one to Craig Foltos, owner of Foltos’ Tonsorial Parlor in Batavia, as we just got his newsletter wherein he mentioned that he’s collecting gently used winter coats and clothing for friends who need them.
The last time Noah grew out of a coat, three years ago, he immediately told me to “Goodwill it.” I laughed, noting the contrast to a similar conversation we’d had years before, when he was just 5 and not quite ready to part with his little coat.
“Hey, Noah,” I’d asked him then, “what do you think about giving your old winter coat to someone who needs one?”
“Nah, I wanna put it away for safekeeping,” he said.
“Safekeeping?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, scrunching up his nose. At 5, giving up a favorite coat is not an easy thing to do.
“That old coat has been good to you, hasn’t it? Gosh, for two years, it’s kept you warm, all winter long, huh?” Almost half his life, I realized.
“Yeah, I wanna keep it,” he repeated.
“I know, sweetheart,” I said, as I struggled to find some way to make it OK for Noah to surrender the coat he’d outgrown, especially since it was already in the trunk of my car, destined for the Coats for Kids box at the grocery store.
Feeling guilty, I tried again.
“You know what? I have a hunch that your old coat would get mighty lonely, all packed up in the basement. And bored, too, with nothing to do. Know what I mean?” A smile slowly formed on Noah’s face. I felt encouraged. “And golly, I bet he’d like nothing better than to find another one to keep warm. Just think what fun that would be for him. After all, it’s his job, you know? To keep kids warm?” I winced. I was desperate for his permission. I knew I could have just made the coat “disappear,” but that didn’t feel right.
“Alright,” Noah finally said. Either he was convinced my story had merit, or he was simply ready for me to quit yammering about it. Either way, he knew the coat was a goner. “Go ahead and give it away,” he said, rolling his eyes.
I was relieved, but admit I felt a tug of nostalgia as I dropped his old coat into that cardboard box at the store. I remembered buying it and recalled how I considered that its blue color would match his eyes perfectly. I thought about the snow angels he made while wearing it and can still see him sledding down the hill after a snowfall, the hood framing his rosy cheeks. Surprised at my ambivalence to part with this simple thing – a little blue coat, which held so many precious memories and once held my little boy, I thanked it for a job well done and wished it well on its journey to another little boy.
As I walked away, I realized that as a parent I have an extraordinary responsibility and opportunity to teach my children how to give.
I have a hunch that I probably taught Noah more about giving-in than about giving, that first time, but I’m thrilled that the impulse to give is second-nature for him now. Because a child who learns how to give knows that he matters to other people – and knows he has the power to make a difference.
• • •
Stop in and see Craig Foltos for a haircut and leave your old coat behind, at Foltos’ Tonsorial Parlor, 7 E. Wilson St., Batavia. If you have a large donation you might want to give Craig a heads-up, though. Give him a ring at 630-879-5253. Turns out Craig’s been doing this for 10 years. I’m sure he and his friends will appreciate your generosity!
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.