THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 1–The Coat Closet

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 1: THE COAT CLOSET

Actually, this is the first of many episodes dedicated to the coat closet in our foyer, but I’ll be mixing them up, because I like variety or I get bored.

I’ve been meaning to sort through my coats and jackets for a number of years now—I have so many that I don’t wear. Not because they don’t fit me anymore (honestly), but because I just don’t use them. They’re outdated or they’re just no longer “me.”

So on May 7 I decided to tackle my coat closet. And I got rid of several coats and jackets—surprised to discover that a few I knew I’d never wear again but was just keeping because they meant something. Even more shocking? The tons of other stuff I had in there—hats, gloves, even my first Easter basket—that needed to go as well.

Here’s the bomber jacket in Fall, 1988, shortly after I got it. My sister was into cheerleading. God knows what I was doing.

I’ll start with my beloved Bomber Jacket that my late father bought for me in 1988. These were all the rage then, and throughout most of the 1980s, because of the Indiana Jones craze. What was funny was that I really wanted a leather one. But Dad was more practical than that—he went to Sears at the then-almost-new-Danbury Fair Mall—and bought this padded version (the Canadian flag was sewn on because we’d visitedCanadathat summer). “Keep you warm in the winter,” he said. I was disappointed, but grew to love it. It was my staple fall/winter jacket for almost a decade. I hadn’t realized how much that jacket and I had been through together until I started going through old photo albums.

Yes, Dad, it kept me very, very warm, and because it was in mint condition (unbelievably so), I laundered it and donated it to Goodwill.

May it find a happy second home.

This pic is awful, but it was taken Feb. 24, 1992, and you can clearly see I have the jacket on. What was I doing? Well, I was up in Cranston, RI, with my friend Monique Smith on a very icy night. Her father’s car slid in the driveway and crashed into mine. Because it wasn’t really my car—it was the one Dad let me drive—we were scrubbing the black fender rubber off the door in the hopes he’d never notice. Look closely, though, and you’ll see the dent. I don’t think we ever fixed that.

The next jacket that needed to go was my very first jean jacket—which, of course, was untraditional: it was olive green. I bought it at Banana Republic in the early 1990s (when Banana Republic was still UNIQUE—the stores smelled like cut grass and sawdust and every trip there was like stepping into Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”). And it coordinated well with all of their T-shirts, too—all that and a pair of jeans and I was ready for anything! I wore the jacket all through college, mostly during the time I was writing and directing plays for URI history department’s The ClioPlayers and editing for the daily paper The Good 5¢ Cigar. Every time I hear Def Leppard’s “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” I think of that jacket.

That’s me in the middle with the Tab (which I still drink, and yes, they still sell)—I never took that jean jacket off, not even indoors, where we are here, in the hallway at Washburn Hall at URI (you could smoke in the halls back then). At my left is Andy and at my right, Mark Anderson. We were taking a break from rehearsing a ClioPlayers production, Of Pirates & Queens. March 26, 1992.

The jacket was in good shape, so I laundered it and donated it to Goodwill.

I pulled down a bin of all my winter hats, gloves, and scarves. At the bottom I found the very first item I’d ever purchased at Banana Republic—a cloth scarf, which I wore as an ascot the last year of high school and the first year out at URI. I wore it a couple of times a week with this really cool gold leaf pin to hold it in place.

Me, wearing my favorite scarf. At right is my brother Chip. It was January, 1990, and we were playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle board game and eating pizza. That was our favorite thing to do together for awhile.

The scarf had a huge rip in the middle, so I threw it away.

I used to be a hat person—I was the girl who wore hats with outfits at one time. Needless to say, I found some I couldn’t believe I still had.

I used to wear berets all the time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but I haven’t worn one in years. They’re just not me anymore. I got rid of several, but the toughest one with which to part was what I liked to call my “carousel” beret. I think I picked it up in a thrift store, and it was wool and wow was it warm. But it was the colored buttons on it that made me tremble—it went with just about any bright top I owned. I wore it everywhere. Every day for one whole winter, in fact. I think people started to believe I was bald on the top of my head.

The most special memory I have of this beret, though, dates back to hanging out with a very artistic crowd up in Bridgewater, Connecticut. Theme parties were always afoot, and this beret was perfect for the character I played at a Beatnik Party in one of our friends’ basements. Yes, there was open mic; yes, there were bongos.

Me as “Chloe” at the Beatnik Party, February 24, 2000.

I tossed the beret in my home dry-cleaning kit and donated it to Goodwill.

I dug a little deeper into the bin and found my mother’s leather gloves, which I took as my own after high school and wore them all through college at URI. I did wear them again on and off through the years. In the photo below you can see them.

Me, March 26, 1992, sitting on the back of my car at the URI campus. I was probably taking a break from play rehearsal.

They were very durable and I believe had been purchased in the 1970s, but when I pulled them out of the bin, they practically fell apart. Unfortunately, they went to the trash.

The last thing to go was my very first Easter basket, which was used for that purpose all through my childhood and even into adulthood (Dad gave us Easter baskets until we were way too old to be getting candy and toys, so he’d get creative and fill them with other things. When I was in college, for example, mine was always filled with Tab, cigarettes, beer, and chips).

I kept it all these years despite the broken handle, and would always use it to store things as an excuse not to get rid of it. It’s lived on the coat closet shelf for the past 13 years, acting as a catchall for gloves without mates, emergency flashlights, and batteries.

The handle has been taped back on several times, the white paint has been scraped off, and some of the weaving is splintered. It had to go to the trash.

Me and my first Easter basket, April 1, 1972. I remember that bunny toy—it was plastic and had little jingle bells in the bottom. It smelled like plastic and cherries.

Coming Soon: boxes of old letters

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on May 8, 2011, in The Goodbye Project and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey there.. I enjoy all of your old photos just as much as your writing. I especially identified with this post. I am a true pack rat, as many teachers are but you have motivated me to start to go through some things. Gail

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