As coats made from the pelts of animals go, the one that I inherited three years ago probably wasn’t that expensive: It isn’t mink, beaver, sable, or even fox. Rather, it’s made from the pelts of brown rabbits, dyed black. We figure it came to my Austro-Hungarian great-grandma in the 1930s; family lore has it that Great-Uncle Ted presented it as a gift to his mother. Inside, embroidered in champagne-colored thread on small slips of satin that match the lining, are her initials: M. L., for Mary (Peck) Laber. But there is a bit of mystery associated with the coat—a photo shows Grandma Laber in a dark fur that’s a slightly different style from the one I inherited.
For almost as long as there has been a Saint Paul, my family has been a part of the city. My father, Carl Reimringer, was born here in 1914, and baptized in Assumption Church, where his father was baptized and his grandfather was married. Though I’d never lived here, when my wife and I moved to Saint Paul shortly after my father’s death in 2001, I fell head over heels in love with the city, feeling that I’d returned to a home I hadn’t realized had been missing from my life.