We recently published Emma Tessler’s lovely “Coat Rack Elegy.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) The longing here is something I think most parents are familiar with — wanting your children to stay small and nestled and safe. It’s a feeling that can be prompted by so many different things. How did you pick the image of the empty coat sleeves for the focal point of this story?
I have a slight inclination to lie here, because my answers to both of these questions are disappointingly concrete. But the honest answer is that I was staring at my kids’ coats hanging on the coat rack, and I just started writing what I was feeling. They were 1 and 2 at the time and their coats were so tiny. There was something very vulnerable about these limp, inanimate coats. And at that moment, they were off with a babysitter and so I was feeling what all parents feel when their kids aren’t around, which is ‘I wish I could hold on to them in this exquisite period of time forever.’ Of course, the moment they come back, the wish changes to ‘I wish I could pay the babysitter to keep them for longer.’


2) I love the reference to the scattered matryoshka dolls on the floor. It works so well with the imagery and desire of the story as a whole, but implies a larger world as well. Do you have an idea why the matryoshka dolls are there? Or would that be giving it away?
Ah, again I am embarrassed by how literal I am! Because, when I glanced my eyes away from the coat rack, they caught on the matryoshka dolls my kids had been playing with on the floor (that I had failed to clean up). Matryoshka dolls have been a favorite toy for both of my children, and when I noticed them in my coat-rack-y head space, I felt a little jealous of them. All those generations of dolls, nestled inside one another, somehow maintaining their autonomy but also being one larger entity. It reminded me of being pregnant, which in some ways I miss; the feeling that my child and I were one person and two people at the same time. So I suppose the implied larger world was quite literally the messy, child-stamped room I was sitting in at the moment, and this piece is that sort of heartbreaking moment of awareness when you, as a parent, remember how temporary that world is.