One of my favorite pictures of my grandfather was taken one afternoon in the yard of their house in Sloss Hollow. He and my grandmother were sitting in aluminum folding chairs watching their …
One of my favorite pictures of my grandfather was taken one afternoon in the yard of their house in Sloss Hollow. He and my grandmother were sitting in aluminum folding chairs watching their grandkids swarming around like gnats. You can see the evening sun highlighting the whiskers on his face. He wore a felt hat that suited him. Even wearing overalls, the hat made him look classy. A good hat can do that.
Through the years, I’ve looked for the perfect hat that suited my face. I wound up settling for baseball caps. The low-rider ones are my favorites, and they kept my head from getting blazed by the summer sun. But I never gave up my search for the perfect hat.
Each time Jilda and I went into a clothing store, I would try on hats while she browsed for purses and shoes. All the hats I tried on made me look goofy. Cowboy hats, Stetsons, derbies, porkpies, and Fedoras all look good on some men, but none resonated with me. I tried on a Panama straw hat once that made me look as if I were wearing a beach umbrella. One look in the mirror and I knew it wasn’t right for me. I heard Jilda chuckle as I hung it back on the rack and continued my search.
A few years ago, we both went to the mall to get our annual eye exam. When they dilated her eyes, I stepped into the mall to browse.
There was an Old Navy store downstairs. A faceless mannequin stood in the window display wearing a straw hat. It was the shape of my grandpa’s hat. Stepping inside, I took it from the mannequin, eased it onto my head, and went in search of a mirror.When I looked into the mirror, I knew I’d found THE hat. In the reflection, a young guy stepped up to get a closer look at the hat. “I’m going to see if they have any more of those,” he said as he hustled off to find one for himself. I smiled and walked to the register with my hat.A few weeks later I was on the back porch strumming my ukulele, and Jilda snapped a picture of me. The image reminded me of the photograph of my grandpa.
The only problem with the hat was that I wore it often. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, the only times I took it off were when I showered and when I slept. Toward the end of the summer, you could see a ring of sweat that looked like a hatband. Getting caught in the rain a few times took its toll. Soon strands of straw started making the hat look gnarly.
I didn’t have the heart to toss it in the trash, so I kept it for a work hat, but I renewed my search.
This past weekend, Jilda and I attended a wedding in Gainesville, Florida. We went into a mall so that Jilda could look for purses and shoes. While there, I stepped over to an H&M clothing store. There in the men’s area was a hat that was a twin to my old favorite. My debit card hit the counter so fast it clicked.
I walked out of that store with a smile on my face.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book “Life Goes On” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.