Okay, first I'll confess that I bought a fur coat for myself once. I was 23 or 24, and I bought the coat at Saks Fifth Avenue or Bonwit Teller, I forget which. It wasn't mink; it was rabbit. But rabbit in a beautiful design, made in Greece. My in-laws were horrified that I had chosen such a lowly fur, and called from Bermuda to say so. But I loved it. I felt gorgeous and glamorous in it.
A few years later we had a country house and I learned about animal rights and animal activism. I could no longer bring myelf to wear fur. I had what I now know was the dumb idea of donating the coat to the local Humane Society for fundraising. The president of the Humane Society bought it for $20. Great.
In 1985 my mother-in-law died. She left her two newer fur coats to her daughter, and I inherited her mink. It was blonde mink and very lush. I wore it once. I had made plans with a British friend to attend a Christmas Eve caroling church service together, and when she showed up in a fur coat I thought, what the hell, and put on Mom's. I must say the two of us looked very prosperous.
After that I lost track of the coat. We hung it somewhere for safe keeping, but over the years I forgot where that was. I never thought about it, so it didn't matter. Just recently a friend spoke about the mink coat she inherited from her mother. I said, "I have my mother-in-law's, but I have no idea where it is."
Then this week my son decided to clean out an area of the barn we once used for storage. It hadn't received any attention in some time, and had sustained rodent damage. There was also way too much moisture in that room, my son said. "Some of the stuff was really gross," he told me, "and the worst was the coat." The coat? What coat? "A fur coat," he said, "covered with mold." He'd put it directly in the trash.
It's hard to imagine moldy mink. But it's also hard to imagine innocent animals being clubbed to death so women can look prosperous. One might think the image of Mom's coat thick with mold would make me feel sad for her. But if Mom is where I think she is—in a place where she now knows everything—she's planning to buy polar fleece in her next life.