Among the many mementos and treasures which my father brought back from Europe in the spring of 1945 was a bundle of creamy white fur hides.
My dad said they were baby goatskins. He had last seen my sister Anita when she was 7 or 8 months old. She was three and a half when he returned. Anita and I have been visiting over lunch today, and she is my primary source for these facts. She remembers being told they were actually from the isle of Capri . Her first knowledge of the hides was seeing my mother and father spreading them out on the dining room table. The fur was very soft with a delicate wavy quality.
"Anita, we're going to make you a coat."
The best part of this story for me, is having Anita recall with pride and wonder the unique talents of our mother. She was, albeit self-taught, an accomplished seamstress. She made a pattern for the coat, bonnet, and muff. Once the pattern was laid, my father and mother used a razor blade to cut out the pieces. Though Mother had a pedal powered sewing machine, we believe she hand sewed the pieces together. Our dad helped fashion the covered buttons. The buttons fastened to an elastic loop covered in creamy satin--the same fabric which lined the coat, bonnet, and muff. Pink satin ribbons adorned the bonnet with bows and the ties making another bow under the chin. There were more bows and a strap for the muff. To complete the ensemble, Mother made a pair of cream woolen flannel lined pants with a bib waistband and straps which had gathered cuffs at the ankles fastened with pearl buttons. The pants were worn over a matching satin blouse in the classic style: Peter Pan lace edged collar and puff sleeves. There are no known pictures of Anita in the "little white coat" as we have always referred to it. She wore this until she was too big for it. My sister Sue, born December 1945, was next in line to wear this coat. She had the hair to match it! Our mother carefully maintained this coat through her first two girls, and it was in perfect condition still in the early fifties when it was just right for me. Thank goodness for the familiar old dime store photo booths!
Anita and I have realized today that this coat, so lovingly crafted over 65 years ago by our parents, could not have been enjoyed any better than if it had been the finest ermine. In actuality, it is really just the little white Italian goat coat.