You might remember the Mills Brothers’ 1944 hit, “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” The hurt was inflicted by “a hasty word you can’t recall.”

Because I love my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, she can easily say unkind things that cut me deeply. To be sure, she does not wound me intentionally but with hasty words that she can’t recall.

A typical example of unrecallable unkind hasty words recently played out like this:

One bright sunny Saturday morning, I saw a new jacket on a rack at a lawn sale. All it lacked was the elbow patches to proclaim to the world that the wearer was a professor of philosophy at Bates. Because they were also selling a large box of books by Molière and Tolstoy – in the original French – I figured I was in good company.

So I put on the jacket. One would have thought it was honey, poured over my body and allowed to cool.

“How much?” I asked the woman, who was jingling some quarters in a crisp, new Hammond Lumber nail apron.


Somewhat startled, I quickly put a palmed fiver back in my pocket, and came up with two ones. She smiled, as I then pretended to fumble for two quarters, and remained immobile with her hand stretched out. It was obvious that she was talking $2.50 – firm.

It goes without saying that having only one body, I have only one jacket. Could any man who is not a Joe Cupo doing the 6 o’clock televised weather report justify the cost of more than one jacket?

One can only give thanks that the popular but expensive vests of my youth are no longer de rigueur, as it is one less thing to fuss about. I remember sporting a plaid vest at the Grange Hall record hop with as much pride as children do today with their monogrammed skin. Happily, when vests went out of style, I didn’t have to pay to have my vest scraped off.

Even more memorable than my days of sartorial splendor was the night my friend Winky made a fashion statement that eclipsed every one of us for all time.

Winky would always come to the dance a bit late to make a spectacular entrance. He’d wait just outside until the automatic changer on the little 45-rpm record player on the edge of the stage was about to plop down the next record. When we were all standing around between dances, Winky would suddenly appear in the doorway, and all eyes would be upon him.

This particular night, Winky left his jacket unbuttoned so’s to leave more of his vest exposed to the open air. And when we saw that vest, there was no question in anyone’s mind but what that somewhere down in Port Clyde, there was a 1936 Chevrolet without seat covers.

You know well that there is no way in the world I would spring for a new jacket were not the old one beginning to show signs of wear.

OK. The old one was completely shot, with the lining literally hanging in tatters. As our friends will tell you, the last thing I want to do is look shabby when I’m out in public. So you might agree with me that the expense of a new jacket, although inordinately extravagant for a man of my habits, could be justified.

But a few days later, when I took the old jacket out of the closet with the intention of cutting it up into cleaning rags, it had somehow morphed back into perfect condition.

When I made mention of the miraculous renovating prowess of our closet, Marsha admitted that she had sewn my old jacket together. For all practical purposes, it was as good as new.

Having two jackets presents a problem in our home. To begin with, there is only one jacket hanger for me in our shared closet. So, besides throwing away money to buy a new jacket I didn’t need, there is no place for it. Also, as a person who appears on stage from time to time, never before have I had to make a decision about what to wear while emceeing a David Rowe-Schooner Fare concert.

So I’m now in the position of many high school girls in the sitcoms – and perhaps in your home. If you live with one of these people, you know that they can spend hours before their overstuffed closets, bemoaning the fact that they can’t decide what to wear.

You can imagine how excited I was when I got home and put on my new jacket so I could parade it in front of Marsha.

You can see me standing on the doorstep with my hand on the doorknob. You can see me throwing back my shoulders, sucking in my gut and making an effort to pull up my chin. All men know the routine. My father would suddenly get 20 years younger any time a young woman walked into the room.

Crackling with enthusiastic expectations, I hopped into the house like a banty rooster.

My wife lowered the book she’d been reading, smiled with delight and said, “That’s wonderful. Now stand up straight so we can see how you look.”

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

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