Monday, March 9, 2009

Hats: They're Not Just for Easter Anymore!

Simply Something for March

Hats: They're Not Just for Easter Anymore!

By Cappy Hall Rearick

"Tell me the truth. Is your name really Lila Lucille Littleton," I ask the short, pudgy lady with the pinkest cheeks I've ever seen on someone outside of a casket.

"It's a mouthful, ittn't it? My mother, bless her heart, was into alliterations. Obviously she didn't think it through or she wouldn't have saddled me with something to cause such grief."

I couldn't let that one go by me. "What you talking about, Lila?"

"When I was a child, the kids called me Little Lila Littleton. Too big a temptation not to, I guess. I'm a big girl now, and I forgive them and rescind all the evil curses I put on them."

Lila marches to the beat of a very different drummer. She is someone I've wanted to interview since the day we met. It only took a few sips of the grape to get her talking.

"Lila, tell me about yourself ... like what are you all about these days?"

"Well now, let's see. You might say I'm all about hats. You see, I believe hats play an important role in our lives. Hat styles, for example, easily identify particular time periods, as well as certain occupations. Think Napoleon. Sadly, hats are not as fashionable as they once were, but the Red Hatters, bless their hearts, are dedicated to bringing back this wonderful accessory item.

"My favorite hat when I was small (notice I didn't say little) was a red tam Mama made for me. It was her first attempt at knitting and to be honest, it left a lot to be desired. But I loved that hat. For weeks I watched, nearly hypnotized, as Mama counted stitches. 'Knit one, pearl two,' she would mutter. Before long, the cadence of her voice and the sound of knitting needles going click, click, click, lulled me into a peaceful sleep.

"The tam was a tiny little thing and if Mama had known what she was doing, she could have finished it in a day or two. She didn't have a clue, so it took her a full two months.

"She wrapped up the red tam in white tissue paper, glued small red hearts all over it, and then gave it to me on Valentine's Day. It was too small for me, but I thought it was beautiful and once I put it on, I didn't want to take it off. It sat perched on top of my head from early morning until I went to sleep. I wore it until the weather got so hot in July that big drops of perspiration made my Shirley Temple curls go SPLATT!

"Eventually, my head grew bigger and my hair got thicker and there was just no way my tam would stay on without Bobbie Pins holding it in place.

"One day Mama stomped into my room while I was trying to anchor the thing on my head, and she snatched it right off of me. She gave my beautiful tam to my five-year-old cousin who said it smelled like a wet dog and refused to put it on. If I'm not mistaken, my red tam ended up on the head of her Boston Bull dog the day they took pictures for the annual Christmas card

"So you see, I learned early in my life that wearing a hat gave meant something to me, and it still does to this day. It makes me feel dressed up. Special. I sometimes think I'm a princess and that's okay too."

Lila covered her mouth with her hand and giggled.

"I adore hats. All shapes and sizes. Mama told me just the other day that I look pretty silly wearing a hat these days because my hair is too short and my face too wide. She said I look like a bag lady.

" 'Hello,' I said right back to her. 'I'm fifty-years-old. I realize that nobody is apt to mistake me for Meg Ryan. But a Bag Lady? That was a low blow, even coming from you, Mama.' "

"That's exactly what I told her and we haven't spoken a word to each other since. So now I'm looking forward to Easter because I intend to wear a hat that I designed all by myself. I'd show it to you but then it wouldn't be a surprise. Would it? I'll just say one thing: it's a doozy."

Clearing my throat, I said, "And so are you, Little Lila Littleton. My hat is off to you!"