Driving home one day, I, as passenger had a moment to reflect and ride quietly for a time. Our day had been full of crowded places, noisy and intruding. Doctor waiting rooms held little to admire, as did the business we had driven there for. Stress is an enemy of the people, and more so in the elders as time and the facts of life bring us to our mental knees at times and stress prevails. I felt such a way, and was happy to be quiet to gather courage and calm for things that lay ahead.
I almost fell asleep in the afternoon sun’s warmth and the humming quiet of the usual auto sounds, and as I shifted my shoulders and tried to rest a little, a car went past us in the lane to our left. I glanced, then almost turned away, but looked more intently, trying to understand what I was seeing. At first it seemed to be a beautifully decorated white cake, spreading into most of the back window of the passing car, and stacked half a window high with row upon spreading row of white. Beautiful, yes, then clearly not a cake, a hat. I grabbed a pad and pencil and sketched roughly what I saw, but not calling the driver’s attention to it as the faster car sped on by, leaving me with a vision I see now as I write this. A hat, whipped cream delicate and so white it had to be a treasure of a sort for someone in the car. I filed the sight and my thinking in my trivia memory space and labeled it “There is a story there.”
Later, I thought again, and now, again about was the owner of such a wonderful and special hat. These times are not the same as hat days were once upon a time, when no properly attired lady went hatless to special places. As that thought led to another, it occurred to me that perhaps we might take a lesson from the Queen and bring “Hat Day” back to life. What purpose does it serve, other than as an accessory to a formal time or place, and seemingly not in church, though I have had occasion to admire friends my age who persist in the reverence once reserved for a funeral or a church special day. Times have brought about more serious and unpleasant changes to the morals and mores of America, and it is neither good nor bad until the extreme is tested against the one step over the line that creates a breach of decency.
Could I have hit upon the respect which I felt was being shown to the world for one small relic of the past: someone very dearly loved must have been the owner of that, now to my new thinking, marvelous hat. Had the person worn it to a wedding of a beloved son or daughter? Had she created it herself, or was it a gift to her from someone who loved her? As in all of our lives, there is a story based on something so special that it must be preserved and displayed to the world as a token of thanks from the owner.
And so I wind down from that passing hat and that thing of honor and beauty to the heart of what I have just now discovered. It was not the hat but the person who wore it who was so well loved as to be kept as a token that person. That is probably what makes me look for hats, or caps, when I walk in the mall or in the corridors of hospitals or waiting rooms. I look for those that tell me that the man or woman old or young who wears that hat has given more to me, a stranger, than many close and loved friends and neighbors. It is the hat of the veteran, and of the WWII gentleman in a restaurant nearby who was one of the few left from that bloody but honorable war. I spoke to him and asked if I could shake his hand, and he smiled and said yes. My husband who had served a much later time came over also, and on impulse, I turned toward the diners and loudly spoke that here was a Veteran of WWII, and could we have a round of applause for him? The diners responded loudly and some cheered and waved as we turned and left the gentleman smiling broadly. It matters, what we do to honor those we love, and whoever the people with the beautiful white hat in the back window of their car, I say “Thank you” for there is a story….