For Christmas 2012, my wife got me a new hat. I’m not much of a “hat” person, or I wasn’t at the time.  I’ll occasionally wear a baseball cap, but hats are just a little too formal for a guy that wears a tie about twice a year on average.  This hat grabbed my attention as soon as it was out of the box.  It’s an old-style Fedora that she bought at a specialty store downtown (Hatman Jacks in the Delano district for those living in the Wichita area).  After mentioning my reticence about hats I hate to admit this, but I’m in love with this hat.  I wear it almost every day during the winter (some of you might have noticed, but I’m a little lacking for insulation on the top of my head) and I’ll wear it on other days during the year if the occasion is special enough.  I don’t mind saying I look pretty good in it, too. Here’s a picture:

     Okay, that’s not really me and I guess I don’t look quite that good, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing it.  Long live the hat.

      I’m sure that there is little interest in the affectations of my attire, but I’d like to make a couple of points.  First, I don’t know how many of you have seen a new television series on NBC called “The Blacklist.” It is quite good.  The program is pretty much dominated by the character Raymond “Red” Reddington, played masterfully by James Spader.  Reddington is a highly nuanced character, but he is mostly completely evil in how he manipulates and emotionally wrecks the people around him and he’s not averse to murdering the unfortunate souls that get in his way.  And he loves Fedora hats:

     Normally I tend to despise characters like this and when they dominate a program like Reddington does in “The Blacklist”, I tend to quit watching rather quickly.  But for some reason, I’m totally fascinated by Reddington, even to the point of rooting for him as he continues toward his currently unspecified and probably nefarious goal.  I’m wondering if it could be the hat.  Perhaps, Fedoras make us soulmates.  Okay, not likely.  It’s just a thought.

      My second point involves a story, a kind of “rest of the story” about the Christmas I got the hat.  The family tradition is that whatever relatives are in the vicinity on Christmas congregate at my parents house for dinner and exchanging gifts.  That Christmas, my parents were sick, so we postponed dinner for a few days.  When we finally arrived, I wore the hat.  As my mom spotted me, her mouth curled into a funny little smile that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  She told me she really liked the hat and then disappeared for a few minutes.  When she came back, she had a hat box.  The box contained a gray version of the hat I was wearing (mine is black).  She explained that it was my grandfather’s and she even had a picture him wearing it.  As she was talking about it, my memory cleared enough to remember granddad wearing his hat and I choked up a bit.

      My parents are admirable people and one would do well to emulate them, but the person I most wanted to be like when I was a small child was my granddad.  He was kind, affectionate, and the most wonderful story teller I’ve ever known in my life.  Adult or child, he could be completely mesmerizing when he talked and, by the time I knew him, he had a lot of stories to tell.  Some them were old jokes that I’d heard before he told them, but there was something about his cadence and timing that made them even funnier the second time.  His own life stories were the best.  He was a poor laborer and farmer in rural western Missouri and I don’t suppose his life had been all that interesting, but when he talked about it, he made it sound like it had been the most fascinating life ever lived.  I adored him.

     Anyway, mom gave me the hat. I don’t wear it because it’s too small.  I suppose that might be symbolic in a way.  Granddad was, among his many wonderful qualities, a really humble guy.  Just keeping it in the house is a humbling experience.  I’ll never be the man he was.

     Perhaps, hats can make a few people soulmates.