The words “Sit down and take your coat off” are ones I heard very often growing up and later when I would visit my mother at her home either in Indiana or Iowa. Those words were part of her greeting to anyone who ventured into her abode.
I was always puzzled by her insistence on the directions since it was usually difficult to find a place to sit down (without removing at least several of last weeks’ newspapers). Also, there was never a place to put your coat, so that part of the command baffled me as well.
In our little home town in Illinois, my mother did have a coat closet. Unfortunately, it was usually filled up with an assortment of out-dated clothing and the ever present garment bag with requisite moth balls. Moth balls, in case you are totally unfamiliar with them, are little round white objects that smell, well, like moth balls. The purpose of them was to drive away moths, and I think they did a pretty good job. No moths stayed around the smell and neither did most humans.
In California, my mother still kept insisting on me “taking off my coat and staying awhile.” This time there was not so much as an empty corner to dump my coat in. Most of the time, I preferred holding on to my coat in hopes that it would not disappear into the black hole that she called her bedroom.
In Indiana, there was still no coat closet. Mother kept on begging anyone who stopped by to “sit down and take your coat off,” but most of her visitors were planning a quick escape and didn’t care to go searching for their wrap.
Once she moved to Iowa, she still didn’t have the usual Midwestern coat closet. Now she would tell people to throw their coats on her bed. This was quite convenient (in her mind) since she no longer slept in a bed. Actually, it wasn’t too bad a plan since she seldom ventured into her bedroom once she began sleeping in her recliner.
I really do not know where my mother developed her habit of asking those stopping by her home to “Sit down and take off your coat,” but she continued using it even when she went into the nursing home. Many of the things my mother said were cruel or malicious, but this saying of hers was just her way of trying to show some hospitality even if it was misguided.