In my mother’s world, there are two kinds of people: hat people and not hat people. We’d be out shopping and see a cute hat and she’d say, “Oh sure, you can wear that, you’re a hat person.” She’d sigh. “Hats just don’t work on me.”
The first winter I was away from home was a cold one. I was newly graduated from university and living in my very own tiny bachelor apartment in the big city of Toronto, seeing my friends on weekends but for the most part spending my time working, commuting, and trying to figure out how to make spaghetti. A care package was waiting for me one day at the security desk. It was from my mom, and it was a hat she’d sewn for me. A warm winter hat made of thick black and white tweed, with a red ribbon around the inside like a secret reminder that I was loved. It had an old-fashioned brim and was completely unique, which was just the way I liked things to be.
That winter my company decided to send me to London because a client was having trouble with a software program I’d developed. It was right before Christmas and I had shopping and baking and wrapping to do, my very own tiny artificial tree to decorate. I’d never been overseas – didn’t even have a passport – and was less than enthusiastic about the whole trip. When I finally arrived, I was exhausted, jet-lagged, and sticking out like a sore thumb in my tweed hat and bright green pea coat amid a sea of black mackintoshes. It was pouring rain and I was unhappy.
I did my best to work at the client site during the day, and the people in the office were great, taking me out to eat at night and making sure I had enough change for the tube. The second night we were there, we all went out for Mexican food and although the food was terrible and I was still bleary-eyed I had a nice time. It wasn’t until we were packing up to leave that I noticed my hat was missing. I thought maybe I’d dropped it on the floor, or left it in the bathroom, but a search of the restaurant turned up nothing. There was nothing to do but go back to my cramped hotel room and sob myself to sleep.
I called the restaurant every day I was in London but the hat never turned up. I flew home a week later, a hat person with no hat. My mom greeted me at home on Christmas with a hug – she’d tried to find the same fabric but couldn’t. Some things can never be replaced.