I have this hat. I don't quite know what to do with it. It no longer looks good on me, but that's not the point. (Besides, to be honest, it never did look good on me, I just looked cute in it. At least that's the way I remember it. And if you talk to the right people, they'd agree.) But I digress. Which is tough to do in an opening paragraph. And which I just did again. But since this story is not about digression, I’ll move on.
I have this hat. It’s a flowered hat.
I have had this hat forever. I got it when I was a kid, probably 7, maybe 8 years old. It’s an old railroad hat. My uncle gave one to each of ‘the boys’ one summer when his family came to visit us in Oregon, all the way from Indiana. I picked the flowered one. It turned out to be a couple of sizes too big; that’s why the band around the back is folded over twice—to make it fit. The only thing I know for sure about my brothers’ hats is that they are all long gone—the hats, not my brothers. Well, I’m pretty sure they’re gone. Who’d keep a hat that long anyway?
Me, that’s who. I just don’t quite know what to do with it.
I never wear it anymore. Sometimes I don’t see it for years. It’s usually tucked away in a special drawer with all those other things I don’t need to see daily but just can’t seem to get rid of: An old pocket knife, a piggy bank shaped like a football helmet, a billfold David Goodwin gave me in first grade, and more, but you get the point. And, to be honest, the hat is not tucked away in the drawer anymore . . . I gave it to my daughter.
Now I want it back.
I love this hat.
How can you love a hat, you ask.
I really don’t love the hat. I think it’s more that I love having the hat. But even to write that sounds silly.
After all, It’s just a hat.
One hundred percent cotton. A bit tattered by wear, a handful of randomly colored paint drips on it from when it was my painter’s hat, a few grass stains from pickup football games, a creased bill from when I'd stuff it in my back pocket, and a spot of civil disobedience from my college days when a few of us protested an unfair parking policy. When I pick it up and hold it in my hands, I never know which of the dozens of golden memories woven into its fabric will magically tumble out, at least momentarily, and elicit that soft chuckle of appreciation and contentment. The threads that remind me of my playfulness, my boldness. My story. The hat reminds me of the love given by those in my past. The love of those who made my life good, who trusted me, guided me, who challenged and corrected me. Those who taught me to love.
What do you have that holds your memories?