Tara's Trouble-Collectin' Coat
By Kalen Marquis
Tara was the kindest, most caring girl. She had a kind, caring mom, a kind, caring dad, and absolutely the kindest, most caring grandma. Naturally, Tara loved her kind, caring family very much.
Some people might wonder what made Tara’s family so very kind and caring but it wasn’t such a big, whispery secret. It all went back to Tara’s grandma, Clara.
Clara was the family expert. She had spent her whole life perfecting her talent. She loved expressing big-hearted kindness and everyone agreed that she had absolutely the warmest and most caring touch.
Clara always knew the right thing to do (or not do) and the right thing to say (or not say) to make someone feel better when they were feeling sad, scared, or grump-grump-grumpy.
Like a gardener knee-deep in a flower bed, Clara recognized every kind of flower, every kind of feeling, knowing which ones to nurture, which ones to snip or pluck or plow under, and which ones to simply let be. “Letting be,” sighed Clara. “Oh, the magic of letting be.”
Time with Clara could be like cool, refreshing water or warm, hugging sunshine to family, friends, and townspeople—the men, women, and children that Clara met on her walks through town each day. With her gentle eyes and listening ears, Clara was “a bit of a legend” by the time Tara was born. She was one of those everyday heroes who brought joy, love and comfort to those around her.
Clara always found that her kindness and caring came back to her—if not directly from those she gave it to, from others at the most unexpectedly delicious times. This filled her up inside and gave her a light, bubbly happiness that seemed to float up and out of her.
“That Clara is this town’s trouble collector,” said Old Man Humphreys. “It’s like she sweeps up all our troubles, tucking them away in the pockets of that coat she wears.” Clara had overheard this once and it made her smile and laugh, going rosy in the cheeks. “That,” she thought, “is like the icing on an already tasty cake. Delicious! Who could ask for anything more?”
And like a cake or pastry chef, Clara had spent many years perfecting her uniquely kind and caring recipes and techniques. She was excited to think that she might now pass them on. Like any chef who was getting older, Clara was inspired to pass along her secrets to her darling granddaughter so that they might live on for all time.
“I know what I’ll do,” Clara said.
She set about designing a brand new trouble-collectin’ coat—a bright, modern one made to fit her darling Tara. “Just wait until Old Man Humphreys sees us,” Clara chuckled.
With her sketch in mind, Clara fingered fabric, threads, buttons and zippers with love as she selected them. It wasn’t long before she began cutting along the lines of a special pattern, her own love-filled design. Tara’s trouble-collectin’ coat would be the deepest, richest blue with pockets, pockets and more pockets!
Once Clara had fit all the pieces into place, she pressed, pinned and sewed them together like a jigsaw puzzle. She sat down in her most comfortable chair and began to stitch pockets of every size, shape and colour. She stitched them on the outside. She stitched them on the inside. She stitched them on the sleeves and the hood. She attached them on every spot she could find, securing them with thread, buttons, zippers, and clingy Velcro--embroidering each and every one with fancy, colourful designs.
Some pockets were flat and tight while others bulged with extra fabric to hold bigger, bulkier items. Some were gathered in folded creases while others squeezed together at the top with elastic. There were big pockets and small pockets, round pockets and square pockets, straight pockets and curved pockets, oval pockets and rectangular pockets, and even long spaghetti lace-up pockets! There would be no mistaking Tara’s trouble-collectin’ coat in the cloakroom at school.
It didn’t take long before Tara’s coat was done. “Ahhh,” Clara sighed as she carefully snipped the last remaining threads and pressed it with her iron.
“Ahhh,” Tara echoed Clara later that day as she opened her sunny, gift-wrapped package.
“I know it’s not quite your birthday yet . . . but I couldn’t wait,” said Clara. “I hope you like it.”
“ I love it,” Tara cried as she pulled it from deep folds of tissue.
“I’m so glad. I made it just for you--so we can walk through town together, helping townsfolk to let go of all their worries and troubles, keeping our hands free as we scoop them up into the pockets of our trouble-collectin’ coats.”
Tara and Clara were inseparable. They took strolls through town, smiling, greeting, listening and happily tucking troubles neatly away.
Tara relished every moment she spent with her grandma and she loved wearing her special trouble-collectin’ coat. She was young and energetic and her coat seemed to stretch with her many growth spurts. Not only that, but it seemed just right for every season.
As the years rolled on, the years began to catch up with Clara. The walks through town began to grow shorter until finally one day Clara announced that it would be much better, much safer, if she stayed close to home.
Tara missed her grandma but she continued her longer walks with youthful enthusiasm. She naturally picked up her pace, seeking out the biggest, bulkiest, most burdensome troubles to collect. She often stopped by Clara’s to share little snippets of stories she heard on her walks each day.
As the weeks and months passed, Tara began to grow older and taller. Over time, she noticed that her coat was no longer growing with her or adapting to suit the changing seasons. Uncomfortably, she began to feel the weight and colour of her trouble collectin’ coat. She found that its pockets were bulging with worries and troubles and it wasn’t long before Tara was looking for a pocket to use herself.
Finally, with the weight of the world on her shoulders and what seemed like the whole town’s troubles in her pockets, Tara went to speak to Clara.
“Grandma,” she said, “Things just aren’t the same anymore. My walks through town feel lonely and my coat feels heavy.”
“Ohhh, I see that. It’s looking all tight and worn,” sighed Clara.
“Yes. It doesn’t seem to stretch or suit the seasons anymore. On hot days it feels too hot and on cold days it feels too cold. My walks just aren’t the same without you,” Tara said, starting to cry.
“There, there,” Clara said, hugging her tight. “It’s okay. I only want you to be happy— as happy or happier than I have ever been. Tara, can you do me a favour?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Why don’t you take your trouble-collectin’ coat out back to the brook. Open up every pocket and give it a good, long shake. Watch every trouble—every clinger, stinger, straggler and hanger-on—shake free. Watch as they cascade into the water, floating away with the current, or as they scatter on the rocks to dry, shrivel and blow away in the wind.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes! It’s a simple but important technique--one that I forgot to teach. Can you forgive me, Tara?”
“Of course, Grandma. Maybe it’s one of those lessons that is easier to learn than to teach.”
“Tara, may I suggest that when you’re all done that you hang up your trouble collectin’ coat? I don’t think you’ll need it anymore, but it can be there for you, like my love, at any time. Who knows? You might even put it to some other, better use.”
“Like filling it with the happiest hopes and dreamiest dreams?” Tara suggested brightly.
“You've got it,” said Clara with a grin.
“Or my love for you, Grandma, and those I meet on my walks through town?”
“Sure. Definitely! You could,” Clara said excitedly. “In fact, if it brings you joy, you should! That, I’m thinking, is the secret ingredient in every recipe, every technique.”
“You know that whatever I do, Grandma, I will do it with my whole heart.”
“Yes, love, I know. I know this as clearly as I know my own name but please, Tara, always remember that there are times when even the fullest and most loving heart must let go-- times when you must trust in the wisdom and wonder of letting be.”
© 1999 Kalen Marquis