’tis the Season for Throw-Up Coats
Having previously treated readers to saliva nostalgia, here I one-up that with some reminiscing about vomit. Stop reading here if the mere thought of vomit makes you queasy.
As children my brother B. and I were required by our parents to wear wool coats to dress-up occasions — like visits to grandparents — during cold weather months.
B. suffered from motion sickness. The 75-minute drives to and from our maternal grandparents’ apartment allowed ample time for the sickness to kick in. I don’t know how many times — it seems like more than a few — dad would have to pull the car over to the shoulder so B. could hop out and vomit.
I remember one particular episode with spaghetti at a Sunoco gas station on the suburban side of Philadelphia’s City Avenue, aka “City Line”. Spaghetti was not the typical fare at my grandparents — the most common offerings were brisket and corned beef sandwiches (not in the same meal). As B showered the Sunoco tarmac, dad, mom, and I were impressed with the similarity of the vomited spaghetti’s appearance to that of the spaghetti served to us earlier in the evening.
But, yeah, about the wool coats … B. and I came to associate these coats with his vomiting. And why not? Many, if not most, times B. would wear his wool coat, he would end up vomiting — with me at close proximity. Poor B. These damn things were hot and uncomfortable. They didn’t breathe; they smothered. No wonder they sent him over the edge — or out the door as the case may be.
What did they look like? This is a reasonable facsimile. Yes, they still sell these things (in the “original John John [Kennedy] style” — 85 bucks at BoysItalianSuits.com). There oughta be a law. Yeah, we had the hats too — although I don’t recall if we were forced to wear them — not beyond the pre-departure photo-shoot anyway.
It may have been my imagination — but it can’t be — because B. has the same memory: the coats began to smell like vomit. And because vomiting in my family was called “throwing up” — during which one emits throw-up (the noun) — we came to refer to these coats as “throw-up coats”.
I don’t know which one of us coined the term, but it was brilliant. I like to think one of us used the term for the first time without any fanfare whatsoever and just like that, it stuck — kind of a family heirloom. I assure you that if, after this post gets spidered, you google the term, this post will be at the top of the search results.
While I can’t remember being asked to “throw on your throw-up coat”, it would have been a great turn of phrase. I vowed as a parent I would never say anything like that to my kids — because they would never have throw-up coats in the first place!
While I’m on the subject of vomit for (I hope) the last time, I offer the observation that vomiting sucks out the wazoo. For those of us with run-of-the-mill problems — people Woody Allen’s character Alvy Singer in the film Annie Hall would call “miserable” (as opposed to “horrible”), wouldn’t vomiting have to be the consensus least favorite activity?
Now I’m grateful to have been blessed with a “cast-iron stomach”. B, my only sibling, was cursed in that regard — as you have no doubt deduced. I wouldn’t trade stomachs with him for anything.
Addendum … from the Be Careful What You Wish For Dept.
I thought I had this post done. All that remained was to find and scan a picture I thought I had of me as a kid wearing my throw-up coat … more on how I came up empty on that in a minute. Before I got a chance to look for the picture I learned that son #2 had contracted a stomach virus during an overnight stay with friends and was to be returned home in minutes.
The arrival of a stomach virus in the household never fails to send me into sullen dread. The feeling was compounded this time by the realization my resistance would be down due to having my having donated blood the day before.
Indeed, within hours I started to feel queasy. Then, while laying in bed reading, I experienced the onset of chills. Fortunately, before I was overcome, I got up, checked my email and Blip.fm BLA and then, by doing something useful — driving to the gas station on a damp night to inflate a compromised car tire — managed to fight off the chills and in doing so, I’m convinced, stave off a direct hit by the virus.
Now — two days and some minor digestion issues later — I still believe I got by with a very, very minor case. However, son #1 has been kneeling before the altar this morning, so I may not be out of the woods yet.
Regarding the picture, it turned out, to my disappointment, that in the picture of me standing in the parking lot of my grandparents’ apartment building, taken when I was about nine years old, I was not wearing my throw-up coat. Rather, the picture must have been taken during summer because I was wearing shorts. Funny how memories of snapshots get mixed up.