It was the week of Christmas, and I was shopping for my sister-in-law at Pink Door, our favorite local boutique in Louisville. I had drawn Katherine’s name in our family gift exchange and knew just where to go. When I opened the door and was greeted by the jingling bell hanging from the door knob, I knew that it was going to take great restraint not to make one of those “one for me, one for you; one for me, one for you” purchases.
As soon as I stepped inside the boutique, a necklace on the front table caught my eye. It was a handcrafted spoon necklace made by an artist in Ohio (if I recall correctly), but the inscription on the spoon is what attracted me to it: LIVE OUT LOUD. This was certainly made for Katherine– she lives life boldly and true to self without compromising her identity (and also happens to do this while being an Episcopal Priest). So I selected the necklace and a pair of wool gloves that also suited her and set them on the counter. My gifting was complete, as I had reached our gift exchange’s ‘budget’.
I could have paid and left the store at that point, but it had been a long time since I had visited, and I just had to take a look at the merchandise, right? Of course.
Of course I found a coat. A rich-red vintage 1960s belted coat–very Jackie O–whose style I love.
Of course it fit perfectly.
Of course I have always wanted a red coat.
Quick text to Husband, as we had agreed to forego gifts for one another this year (three kids at Christmastime are expensive!). So while waiting for his reply, I walk back to the front of the boutique… and that’s when I see it. The cape.
Oh, my. It was striking and unique and artsy and funky… and I wanted it to be MINE. Well, Boutique Owner noticed my drool and came over to help me with it. (The cape, not the drool.) Michelle explained that a friend of hers makes them locally: “Are you familiar with Gunnar Deatherage?” she asks, “of Project Runway?” (Wellllll, then. No wonder it was striking and unique and artsy and funky, I say to myself.) I really don’t watch TV anymore unless it’s college basketball, so I was not familiar with Gunnar. But I was familiar with the show, of course. I don’t live in a cave, after all.
“Really?!” I respond. “That’s so cool!” The cape suddenly became even more intriguing to me. A young and aspiring designer, with obvious (and televised) talent, and he lives in Louisville? This beautiful piece, locally made? “Oh, he was sewing when I left the apartment,” an adorable modelesque sales associate pipes up. So now I am imagining a very cool hip designer artistically sewing his visions into reality in a funky little apartment somewhere in Louisville. Now I was sold. But that day my wallet did not allow for The Cape, so the sale wasn’t going to happen. I sighed and hung it back on the rack. Plus, it was twice the price of The Coat– so if I was going to get one or the other, it would have to be The Coat. But most importantly, Christmas is not about GETTING, for Heaven’s literal sake, but for GIVING. I quietly rested in that thought and was ready to check out and leave. I didn’t need The Cape.
But a good Boutique Owner knows her customers. So Michelle knew how badly I wanted this cape, plus I’m sure she was hoping her friend’s wares would fly off the racks. Apparently, they had been… because here’s The Cape on Gunnar’s Facebook page. (I looked him up online when I got home that day… of course.)
Well, Husband was traveling and in meetings so I didn’t hear from him before I needed to leave the store. And Boutique Owner who knows her customers and wants her friend’s cape to take wings and fly says, “I’ll put it on hold for you.” Of course. Of course she’ll put it on hold for me. So I walked out of the store with Katherine’s gift, vowing to call Boutique Owner back by end of day with my answer. (I was actually proud that I didn’t break down and offer to sell one of my children in exchange for The Cape.)
Long after I walked out of Pink Door, Husband texts back, responding to the photo I had sent him of the red coat: “Get it. It’s very Jackie O.” (See? What man can resist Jackie O?!). I admit that I also ‘casually mentioned‘ The Cape, but we chatted and decided The Coat would be a more practical purchase. And Dear Husband’s response had made me happy anyway, because I really do love that coat. It’s a perfect “we aren’t going to exchange gifts” gift. So I called Boutique Owner. Told her to put The Cape back on the rack and hold the coat instead. I’d be in tomorrow.
Well as it happens every year, just like that, Christmas Day came and went… and I continued to move through the rest of the Christmas Season toward its conclusion on Epiphany (which is actually today as I write). The Cape was almost a distant memory–because I admit that I wondered on whose shoulders it would rest it in the New Year. Which leads me to New Year’s Eve, around noon, when I received a voice mail from Boutique Owner. “There is a little something here at the store for you. Please give me a call.” Well, I am horrible about promptly returning phone calls; plus it was New Year’s Eve and my mind was elsewhere, I guess.
Then again, on January 2nd…a second call from Boutique Owner. This time I pick up the phone. “Hi, it’s Michelle from Pink Door again. Someone has left something here for you, and I wanted to make sure you came in. I’ll be here ’til 6:00.” I said I’d be there within the next couple of hours and hung up the phone, quite curious as to what could be awaiting me there. A gift card? A small token from family who overheard Katherine and me on Christmas Day, talking about how much we loved Pink Door? I had briefly mentioned The Cape to family– how I fawned over it when selecting Katherine’s gift. Turns out Katherine had actually already bought one of Gunnar’s capes for herself– but a different color scheme. Well, that figures! Of course she had. We laughed about it and moved on.)
So on January 2nd, I set out for Pink Door before heading to grab a few necessities at Target. Walking up the sidewalk, I turn the corner and then the doorknob, to the sound of the jingling bell greeting me once again. Michelle smiled at me as I approached the counter, and out of the corner of my eye, hanging on the rack beside her, I see it.
The Cape. But I dared not look at it.
I told Michelle how curious I was about what could be waiting for me.
And that’s when Boutique Owner turned to the rack, and pulling The Cape from it, held it out before me.
Katherine had bought The Cape… for me.
On Christmas Day, the Day of all days when we learn that it is better to give than to receive, Katherine had sent a message to Boutique Owner and told her to “hold The Cape That Shannon Wanted” and she’d be in later to pick it up. Katherine gave. I received. And she hadn’t even drawn my name. (And I’ll mention that The Cape blew the gift exchange budget by quite a wide margin anyway.)
I admit that this has been quite a long tale about a material object. And those who know me well know that I really don’t give much of a flip about material things. But this story’s lesson is so much more about getting something that you wanted. It’s about clothing yourself. Clothing yourself and one another in Love.
When I put on The Cape after leaving the store, the first words that came to mind were these:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
~ Colossians 3:12-14
So on the 9th Day of Christmas, I received a beautiful gift. Not nine ladies dancing, but this:
A reminder to put on Love. And to put Love onto others. The Scripture above ends with these words: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
And for Katherine, The Cape, and all that it symbolizes,
I am thankful.