For as long as I remember, my mother kept hat boxes stacked high in our garage. I was forbidden to open them because they belonged to my grandmother. I only caught a glimpse each time my grandmother prepared for her yearly pilgrimage to New York City. My father would precariously make his way up the stairs with these boxes, his torso and head concealed by the stack he carefully carried.
Together my mother and grandmother gingerly removed the ribbons and tissues that revealed her valued hats. These hats sat in dark satin boxes protected by moth balls whose repulsive smell, never dimmed the glamour of her hats.
My grandmother’s hats were richly hued in grayish blues, deep burgundy reds, caramelized browns with a hint of red. Some were simply adorned with a ribbon, others had rhinestone hat pins, while most sported delicate feather quills. She favored rabbit haired felt trilby hats with stiff rims, similar to the one Ingrid Bergman wore in Casablanca.
After a careful review of her hats, she’d make her selections, and my father down the stairs would return, carrying more than an armful of boxes to store for another year again.
Hats weren’t my grandmother’s only weakness but they were her principal vanity. She loved jewelry, gloves, hand tailored pencil skirts and well crafted shoes.
I never had the chance to really touch a hat, let alone wear one. But, when I see a fedora hat or white wrist gloves, I think of my timeless, impeccable grandmother.
May she rest in peace.
August 26, 2010