Teri Orr: Wear oh where… | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: Wear oh where…

I will need to buy new clothes for the winter. No, I didn’t lose or gain a lot of weight. I am not moving to a different climate. I am not working outdoors in a different job or even indoors in a different job. I did not suffer a home fire or a theft. Nonetheless, my winter clothes are gone.

To explain, let me first take you back to a popular television show in the ’90s called "Murphy Brown." Candice Bergen played a news reporter, over 40 and single, who had no real life outside her crazy job. She hired a man to re-paint her apartment, Eldlin, and every day for years, she came home to find him still working on her walls. He also replaced light bulbs and signed for packages and listened to her kvetch about her work. He became the painter who never finished and her sounding board.

Women who live alone rely on the kindness of, if not strangers, at least men they do not co-habitate with. Painters, sure, and sometimes gardeners and snow-removal folks and guys who stack up firewood.

Somewhere around a dozen years ago I needed my house painted and my sweet neighbors said they had a friend who was a ski instructor in the winter and painted houses in the summer. He was reasonable and trustworthy, they assured me. Enter, well, let’s just call him "John." He did not offer any editorial opinion when he was asked to re-paint my lavender house with the eggplant trim the exact same colors. He sanded weathered wood and replaced bad boards and even threw an extra coat of paint on the tired Adirondack chairs. When I was frustrated not being able to get a plumber to the house for a minor repair, for days on end, he quietly went to Home Depot, got parts and fixed the garbage disposal. He explained to the yard guys what trees needed branches trimmed.

Some nights, after my job day ended, when he was still there working, I would arrive home and pour us both a drink. I would explain the crappy parts of my day. He would nod in that polite Midwestern way. I started to notice little things I hadn’t mentioned getting fixed — light bulbs replaced, faucets tightened. On occasion, he would share with me pieces of his family life, back in the Midwest. A girlfriend du jour. His other job.

When I had to pack up my mother’s house in one long weekend and place things in a giant POD and move it all out here, he made room in my garage to try and fit the belongings of her huge house into my small spaces. At the holidays he helped me unpack the Christmas boxes and repack them come January.

Many, many days in the past 12 years, in non-winter months, I have come home to find "John" fixing one last thing and asking what I thought of local politics or national ones. He keeps his portable work radio tuned to NPR. My level of trust was/is complete.

Last spring after I packed up all my winter clothes in plastic bins, I decided it was time to purge the linen closet… and some summer clothes that, after looking at them, after months of their binned up life, I realized were tired and frayed and needed to be retired. I set them in the front of the garage and asked "John" to take them to a local charity. About a week later, when I came home from work and poured us a beverage and discussed the politics of the local world, I noticed a really large stack of plastic bins in the garage, more than the ones I had packed with the stuff for charity. I asked where the extra bins had come from. He explained those were the bins from all the stuff he had delivered the week before. I looked around the garage and nowhere to be found were the four giant bins I had packed… with my decades-old ski sweaters and wool jackets and "dress up" winter outfits and boots.

He offered to go to the charity and try to retrieve the clothes when we figured out all the contents of all the bins had been liberated. I said that was probably pretty bad karma for me to consider. I poured us both another drink. And then, I forgot about it all until this week, when I decided I wanted my old, cozy fisherman-knit sweater I bought on a trip, about 15 years ago, in a little Irish store in… Denver (don’t ask) and realized it was gone. Ditto those trusty black boots, and the smart navy raincoat and, well, you get the picture.

My insurance agent probably wouldn’t be able to file a stupidity claim on my behalf but I considered it. For a minute. But they were just clothes, after all. And nice enough, most of them, I hope they will be living a happy second life this winter. Perhaps they will pass me in the grocery store and I will be tempted to tell the new owner some story about the time that jacket went to Vancouver or stayed out all night or had sauce from that great little restaurant on Main Street on the sleeve. Hopefully, I will have the good sense to restrain myself. I’ll come home and if "John" is there fixing something, I will tell him of the sighting. And we can laugh about the year the clothes gave themselves away. It could be a conversation for any day, like Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.

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