My Mother and Mink

Her Pelts. My Punishment.

My Mother and Mink

My mother was pro-mink. She believed fur symbolized luxury, style, wealth and to the manor born. Not me. I was decidedly anti-fur. I grew up in a cloth coat, pea- jacket, egalitarian world.

My mother was a native New Yorker, so fur was practical too, good for keeping the cold out. I, on the other hand, grew up in sunny Las Vegas. So I avoided the cold and the culture of fur for a long time.

The Fur Flies

But in my late 20s, I was D.C.-bound for an exciting new job. I was also in possession of a small insurance settlement from a leg injury. For my mother, the stars were aligned. She saw fur in my future and pounced.

She dragged 29-year-old me into Saks Fifth Avenue’s fur salon, where cringing and groaning, I tried on fur coat after fur coat. In the end, my mother and a well-coiffed, beguiling saleswoman cajoled me into buying an admittedly fetching mink cape. For some reason, the cape was left in the store overnight for pick-up the next morning.

Mink Nightmares

That night, I had vivid nightmares of baby minks being captured and clubbed, screaming my name as they took their last little bloody breaths. I called Saks at 9:01 a.m. to cancel the purchase.

Mink/Maternal Independence Day

Then, at 9:07, I called Mom to proclaim my Mink and Maternal Independence Day. On that call, I lectured my mother on the sins of cruelty toward animals.

And finally, later that day, proudly independent, I purchased a wildly impractical snow-white wool coat. The coat spent more time at the cleaners than it did on my back.

Furry Revenge Comes to Me

Little did I know Mom’s furry revenge was yet to come.

When she died, she bequeathed to me her four furs — a coat, two jackets, and a stole.

One jacket, I gave to my mother’s sister, my Aunt Ev. So, that was a guilt-free give-away. Mom’s silver fox stole, I donated to a well-respected charity, which annually conducted a high-society, fur coat auction fundraiser. Again, I dodged the guilt bullet.

Two Coats Remain

One night out I wore the remaining mink jacket. A friend quickly smirked, “Oh, somebody’s wearing a Mom jacket.”

For four years each spring, I dutifully dragged those two remaining furs to Neiman-Marcus for “winterization” and storage. And for four years each fall, I dragged them out of storage, under no illusion that I would wear them in the non-blistery wintery non-cold of Las Vegas.

Finally, I swore, “Enough is enough.” I was done with the guilt and the wasted storage and winterization cost. I was determined to molt the minks.

I called the charity that held the annual fur auction. They were no longer conducting the auction. Too much anti-fur controversy. Mink was out. Ermine and sable were taboo.

Online sales didn’t seem an easy option. So, what to do?

A Friend Indeed? Bah!

Belatedly, I thought of my best friend in NYC. Surely, she would welcome the coats.
But Laura declined the offer, saying she was already minked, thanks to her own deceased mom.

She was also aghast that I was considering deep-sixing Mom’s minks. She reminded me that I was a New Yorker in my soul and that the day would come when we two would be slow-moving old ladies, hobbling on our walkers to Broadway shows on cold blustery days.

The Fur-Coated Light

It was an unpleasant but unassailable truth. Thanks to my friend’s wisdom, I saw the fur-coated light. I needed mink.

I resolved to get Mom’s massive, unfashionable coat restyled. It was a guilt-free decision. It wasn’t like I was killing new animals. The minks that made up my coat had sacrificed their lives decades before. I was simply giving those lost little lives renewed purpose. I was, in fact, honoring the environmentalist creed of re-use and recycle!

So, that’s what I did. The fur was “shaved” and is now on the inside of a stylish fabric coat that is chic and toasty warm. Plus, as a bonus, with the mink cleverly concealed on the inside, I’m safe from paint-throwing anti-fur activists.

The only thing I’m not safe from is my mother, who is probably nudging my cigar-smoking father up there in heaven, and having a hearty laugh watching me wearing her mink — just as she had planned all those years ago.

4 replies
  1. Mary Rees
    Mary Rees says:

    Karen, it’s your Russophile soul that tortured you through the night with dreams of baby minks! I’d love to see your “new,” recycled coat. How do you pick the right fabric to enrobe mink?

  2. Karen Pollak
    Karen Pollak says:

    Loved your story. I too have mink coats. One was my mother’s that I repurposed into a jacket and wore in the very cold Omaha Nebraska winters. The other is a full length coat my spouse bought to keep me warm in those cold winter months.
    You see my father was an outstanding furrier when fur was acceptable in the 40’s to the 60’s.
    Although I am an animal lover, I never despised fur.

    Now I live in the Bay and have no need for fur. Very sad. I too do not know what or where to give them?
    My daughter in laws don’t want them and am sure my granddaughters don’t want them.
    Suggestions welcome
    Karen Pollak

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Thank you for your kind words about the story. Interesting about your father. We had a friend who was a furrier and he gave me scraps for my dolls. My Barbie dolls had mink stoles! I had forgotten about that until I read your comment! Oh, my!
      In terms of suggestions, if you really don’t want them, you could try finding a high-end resale shop back East (or anywhere cold) and selling them for whatever money you can get. Then treat yourself to something fun … OR just hang on to them for that rare trip to some wintery clime and let your family worry about the furs … later, much later! Good luck – whatever you decide.


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