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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Snap (09/04/08)

TITLE: The Suit Jacket of Grace
By Jan Ackerson
09/07/08
~1st Place


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I have lunch with CoCo every Saturday at the Chocolate Café. My niece’s real name is Courtney, but when I discovered our mutual love for chocolate during her precocious toddlerhood, our Saturday afternoons became inviolable aunty/niece time, and she acquired her sweet-toothy nickname. We’ve been doing this for thirteen years now.

We go slightly insane on our lunch dates: turtle cheesecake drizzled in fudge, dark-chocolate covered cashews, triple-mocha cappuccinos. We’re veritable chocolate fiends, making “mmmmmm” and “ahhhhhh” sounds that sometimes draw the attention of other diners. CoCo’s prissy mother—my sister Tessa—would shush us, blushing, if she were here. But CoCo and I are uninhibited in our adoration of milk, semisweet, dark.

Last Saturday, CoCo plopped down without her usual “Hey, Aunt Jo.” When she listlessly selected only one chocolate chip cookie, I hooked her chin with a finger and said, ‘Okay, something’s very wrong. One cookie? C’mon, kiddo…spill.”

CoCo picked her cookie apart until her plate was covered with pea-sized crumbles. “Aunt Jo,” she said, “I made a huge mistake. With Trevor.” She smooshed a chip with her thumb.

I knew why CoCo confessed to me. I’ve mentioned Tessa—she’s a good mom, but a bit severe. I’m cool Aunt Jo; I share Tessa’s faith, but I came to God late, after a rough-and-tumble life that gives me a certain air of glamour in CoCo’s eyes. I’m older than Tessa, but I’m way cooler.

I thought for a while about what to say. Finally, I sat back and sipped my latte. “CoCo, did I ever tell you about the ‘70s?”

She looked up, surprised. “Huh?”

“Back in 1972, I was student teaching—eighth grade English. I was very fashionable back then, and I bought these great slacks, a new style called hip-huggers.”

“We have those now, Aunt Jo. But…”

“I’ll get to the point, Cokes. Bear with me. So I had these orange hip-hugger bell-bottoms…”

“Bell-bottoms! Ew!”

“…and a big problem. My shirts wouldn’t stay tucked in. I found a cool shirt that solved my problem, though--a fantastic orange-and-purple striped turtleneck that snapped at the…well, like a baby’s onesie. Got the picture?”

“Yeah…but I still don’t…”

“Hang in there, kid. So I decided to wear this lovely outfit to work. But when I was getting dressed, the first of the three snaps wouldn’t snap. Well, I still had two. So I snapped those, pulled up the hip-huggers, and left for school.

I was at my desk while the students were watching a movie about nouns, when I felt a strange sensation in my…in the area of the snaps. Number Two had come undone. I was down to one working snap.”

CoCo was stealing spoonfuls of my tiramisu now, and I’m sure I heard her snort. I continued my story.

“About the time the movie ended, my supervising professor walked in to evaluate me. He took a seat and nodded for me to continue the lesson. I dreaded standing up…what if the snap came undone? But I couldn’t teach from my desk, so I stood up and started talking about the wonders of nouns. Miraculously, the snap held. I was walking around the room, having students call out nouns, making a game of it…I knew I’d get a great evaluation. Toward the end of class, I went to the blackboard to write the homework assignment. I reached toward the top of the board—and the snap gave way.”

“Oh no! Aunt Jo, what did you do?”

“It’s not what I did, it’s what that shirt did. It flew out of my slacks and rolled up like a scroll. Oh, did I mention…my panties were not hip-huggers? A full three inches of white cotton was exposed. Kids were laughing, I was standing there with my shirt flapping, wishing for Death’s Carriage to stop by—that’s Dickenson, CoCo--and then my professor ran up and draped me with his jacket and said he’d stay with the class if I needed to leave to make…adjustments.”

CoCo grinned, then thought for a moment. Finally—“Aunt Jo, why did you tell me that story?”

I took a deep breath and picked my way carefully through my next words. “It was a mistake to wear that shirt—I knew something bad could happen, and it did. But it was covered quickly—by grace—and I never, ever wore it again.”

Did I mention how smart my niece is? She got it—right away. “Aunt Jo, you rock. Hey—can I have a chocolate croissant?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Leah Nichols 09/12/08
Nice job! Love the story of the snaps - great take on the topic.
Joanne Sher 09/12/08
SO creative. Love the relationship between these two and the lesson so masterfully woven in with "coolness." Great stuff!
Lynda Schultz 09/13/08
Wonderful story and a great lesson explained brilliantly.
Shelley Ledfors 09/14/08
Very creative take on the topic...and a great message as well!
Chely Roach09/14/08
I have had that shirt, and had the same "issues",lol. Love the chocolate references! A fun piece of work, here;)
Celeste Ammirata09/14/08
I love the way Aunt Jo related the important message that we can make mistakes, learn from them and move on. What a wise woman. Great job with this.
Joy Faire Stewart09/14/08
Very entertaining with a great message. Growing up, I had an aunt very much like "Aunt Jo." Thanks for the memories. Love it!
Laury Hubrich 09/14/08
Are we dating ourselves? I remember shirts like that! Oh boy:) Love this story. And I think I gained some weight reading it, too. Oh boy, o boy.
Sheri Gordon09/14/08
ROFL. This is hilarious. I had one of those shirts, too--and I remember praying those snaps would hold.

Your writing is so fun to read...and the little details you drop in are amazing. (Like a movie about "nouns"--how funny.)

Great story--as usual.
Yvonne Blake 09/14/08
Hee,hee...I remember those shirts! Funny story...good lesson.
Kristen Hester09/14/08
I loved the relationship between the aunt and neice. Very authentic. Great job,as always.
Scott Sheets09/15/08
Great story with a great lesson! Thanks for sharing.
Holly Westefeld09/15/08
First you make me hungry, then nearly fall out of my chair laughing, and finally have to swallow the lump in my throat from the ending. Top notch!
Sharlyn Guthrie09/15/08
The message of grace is portrayed so well in this story. I like the way Aunt Jo took her role modeling seriously, but not too seriously, at that. Can't think of anything I'd change.
Beth LaBuff 09/15/08
Ah yes, the 70's… :) I love the confectionery aspect of this great message wrapped up in chocolate.
Karlene Jacobsen 09/15/08
This is a hoot! I had to stop half-way through to stop, go back and read to the family! Somehow I remember those shirts too, I was a child then.

I love the way Aunt Jo expressed the message of grace through a story rather than lecture.
LauraLee Shaw09/17/08
This is masterfully written with the message coming untucked at just the right moment. The authentic voice and feel of the piece is my favorite part.
Kristi Peifer09/17/08
Your writing is so seamless--no wonder they have you teaching the master class! I would love to learn to write dialogue like you do!
T. F. Chezum09/17/08
Love the story. Very creative and a great lesson.
Chely Roach09/18/08
Congrats on your big win! This was so much fun to read!
Heather Sargent09/18/08
Congrats on your win! It was well-deserved and this was awesome!
Judy Meyers09/18/08
Loved the message! Thanks for giving us a snappy lesson.
Anne Linington09/18/08
I can see why this one is a winner- it wins in my eyes too great fun and great moral.Ref the carrriage is it Dickinson, as in Emily, or Dickensian, as in Charles or correct as it stands. Just wondering?
Rita Garcia09/18/08
Great story, it delivers on so many levels! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jan Ackerson 09/18/08
Rats, Anne, you caught me! and I was hoping I'd gotten away with the typo. It's Dickinson, as in Emily. The lines, are:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
Venice Kichura09/18/08
Delightful read!
I can see why this got top honors!
Patricia Turner09/18/08
LOL! Me too, a child of the 70's and I had a shirt just like that one. Thankfully it never did that or I would have died! What a wonderful and, of course, masterfully told story of love gently given. Just left me hanging on for what CoCo did that prompted the whole thing. Hope you'll tell us one of these days. Congratulations!
LauraLee Shaw09/18/08
Congrats on 1st place!!!! So happy for you! ;)
Christine Dunn09/19/08
Loved your characters - you really brought them to life!Congratulations!
Leigh MacKelvey09/20/08
Janny, Janny bo banny! So glad to see you at number 1 once more ... it's where you belong. I loved this story. As always, you create such believable characters and scenes. Waaaay cool!
Charla Diehl 09/23/08
Congrats on your winning first place--well deserved. I like the relationship between the aunt and niece and most importantly, that the aunt used her role model image in such an influential way. Great message. You are truly a writer to be admired
Joanne Sher 07/01/09
Congrats, Jan. SUCH a fun one. I woulda been surprised to not have at least one up there this time. Second place is something else!
Lynda Lee Schab 07/01/09
CONGRATULATIONS, JAN! You just can't seem to stay out of the spotlight, can you? LoL. Of course, there's a good reason for that. You're an excellent writer!
Doing the happy dance for you! :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/01/09
Congratulations, Jan. There is no doubt that you're a masterful writer, worthy of recognition. Thank you for "showing us how."
Loren T. Lowery07/01/09
Love the story and its message and the way you write makes it both a pleasure to read and to learn. Congratulations, Jan!
Holly Westefeld07/01/09
This was a great one to read again, but then most of yours are. :-)
Congratulations!!!
Sheila Deeth07/01/09
What a lovely piece. Had me smiling and remembering my own mistakes - yes, and remembering they are covered by grace. Very nice. Congratulations.
Seema Bagai 07/01/09
Congrats! Hope you're celebrating with some chocolate. ;-)
Beth LaBuff 07/02/09
Congrats Jan, on the high honor this received. Your writing style and message here, are supurb!
Genia Gilbert07/02/09
Congratulations, Jan, on placing again in Best of Best! It looks better typed than in abbreviation, I think. Well deserved, and great message.

Thanks too for your recent comment and placing my poem in upcomng showcase. How Nice! Made my day.
Marijo Phelps07/02/09
I remember those! they hadn't invented onsies yet but we wore that all in one shirts... grin. This took me way back - congrats! That was before the Lord for me but we were covered even then if we but asked Him in!
Verna Mull07/02/09
My what a great picture you painted for someone with a need. What a wonderful description of Grace! You certainly deserve the recognition. God bless you!
Helen Paynter07/02/09
Hey Jan - many, many congratulations.
Love this piece - hadn't read it before. I like everything that everyone else has pointed out - but I most of all like the theology of it. Genesis 3:21.
And so God's grace covers us.
Betsy Tacchella07/03/09
You have such a great way with words...and such an authentic story...very engaging.
Janice Fitzpatrick08/20/09
Congrats Jan! Way to go hon. I had read this when you first submited it a while ago but forgot leave my,
"well done." I loved this as it showed the genuiness of the aunt and how God's grace, praise the Lord, indeeds covers even the "slip ups" or in this case, the "scroll ups".:0))
I read this a few times savoring the dialogue,relationship of your characters and those delightful comparisons. At the end I was licking my chops savoring each morsel I indulged upon, like your choclatey decadence itself. Again congrats and high five hon!
Mary Brownwing08/26/09
Excellent and heart-warming
story, thank you so much for offering it here for us to read.
Connie Dixon12/02/09
Loved this, Jan. Don't know how I missed it. Belated Congrats!
01/14/10
A little late to be leaving a comment, Jan, but just wanted to CONGRATULATE you on your win. You deserve it. Great story. Wish I had had an aunt like you. Who but you would ever have worked the theme of grace into a story about a jacket....Great job!...Helen
Sharlyn Guthrie01/21/10
Jan, I remember this story well, and I even remember reading it again after it placed 2nd in Best of the Best. Things were just so crazy this summer that I didn't realize until now that I never properly congratulated you. Please forgive me. It is truly a deserving piece, and I'm so happy for you -once again!
Donna Wolther03/16/10
I see why your writing advice is sought after. Great story from all angles.
Julie Farmer04/14/10
What a fun and well written story!