Intestinal fortitude. A great hat. A mother’s happiness. Friday was a good day.
Need a little back story?
Oh, the dilemma of working from home! How we weary of wrestling with isolation; writers in particular need an occasional dose of living beings – especially since that’s generally what we write about. And if you’re single (and your teens don’t talk), no amount of roaming from desk to floor to couch will cut it. Sometimes you just need to get the hell out, and position your posterior at a coffee shop or book store.
I was leery of the locale frequented by Breastfed Boomer Boy (of last week’s bizarre botched pick-up fame). Was he a permanent fixture in that sunken arm chair? Might I require Groucho glasses and fake mustache?
Determined to return to the scene of the crime, I packed my laptop, power cord, and all the positive thinking I could muster. I dropped the Kiddo at school, then headed towards Barnes & Noble feeling feisty and defiant. As I took the back roads through one of the city’s lovely, older neighborhoods, I passed signs for an estate sale and was – of course – immediately distracted.
Common Sense (gotta hate it)
Damn this recession. The desire to pull over was tugging at me, but Common Sense was holding firm. You can’t, she said.
Shit, I whined. But these are gorgeous homes from the 30s, and when will I get this chance again? Common Sense scowled, powerless to prevent me from slowing, then parking at the end of a curving line of cars.
You shouldn’t, she said.
It might be good for a story, I countered, rationalizing my way into Temptation Territory.
Once parked, I took my time strolling past the gracious homes of stone and brick, enjoying the scent of boxwood in the air. I entered the house by a long driveway, into spacious rooms where I could imagine bustling life and elegant entertaining that overflowed onto a landscaped terrace. Inside, people milled about, looking through assorted books, furnishings, and kitchen wares.
I climbed the stairs and meandered in and out of bedrooms, poking through clothing and accessories. It all felt so intimate – seeing what another woman wore at various times in her life, touching her belongings without knowing her. But there was no emotional sting; she was older, had family, and had moved. The home was sold. The remaining estate proceeds were to benefit her favorite charity.
And that’s when I saw it on a shelf, just above my eye level.
Not just any hat. Black felt. A contoured crown covered in black sequins, and not one was out of place. Trimmed in a sheer fabric with a softly tied bow. A fine brim – not too broad, but enough to dip over one eye, for mystery.
Did I mention that I love hats?
You have no business buying anything, said Common Sense. Keep your little paws off.
I just want to try it on, I whispered, and so I did, catching a glimpse in a nearby mirror as I tucked a wisp of hair behind my ear. I didn’t recognize the woman who looked back. She was smiling. Beaming.
I pulled the brim just a little lower, over one eye, and continued to gaze. I reluctantly removed the hat, glanced inside for a label, and noted the milliner’s name – George W. Bollman and Company. Then I took a deep breath, and turned over the tag.
My hat, I said aloud. My beautiful black hat, once worn by a stylish woman I will never meet, but whose hat I will cherish. My new treasure was priced at two dollars.
A mother’s news
After installing myself at B&N unmolested (Boomer Boy was nowhere in sight), I worked contentedly for hours, then hurried home. (I admit it. I wanted to play with my hat.) As I was driving, a friend called, her voice hot with excitement and gushing with news.
She’d been dealing with a terrible situation with her teenage son – not of her making or his – and it had suddenly resolved itself. This was no small issue, and no small miracle. We talked for awhile, and when I hung up I couldn’t stop grinning. By then I was home, dressing (for my hat), and I spent the rest of the evening gleeful. Hell, I felt thirty-something again, and as spicy as a petite Penelope Cruz!
That’s what only a slight detour in plan had fostered: one miracle for a friend, and moments of genuine happiness for me. After all, where there’s one miracle there may be others – some as simple as magic in a sparkling hat, or a mother’s joyful news.