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By Elaine Rosenberg Miller
"De Hoot" her aunt used to call it.
She never understood its significance.
She, for one, hated hats. She hated the pressure on her forehead, the heat, the splattered hairdo, the obscuring brims. She never understood the women that wore them. Often, their hats were better looking than their dresses. Some wore wintery close fitting cloches, reminiscent of twenties flappers, made of felt or wool and garments sprouting green trellised vines or yellow chiffon billows. With white shoes. And tan stockings. Many bore oversized straw hats, colored, of great beauty and design and under them, three piece suits, wrapping their spreading torsos in bands of unforgiving fabric.
She hated hats.
Once, as she left her parents' house on her way to Sabbath services, during one of her periodic visits, her mother complained. "She won't wear a hat!"
Her father, no fool to her mother's concerns, said, "She has so much hair, people will think it is a wig."
The hat. The hat.
It screamed "Married!". "Off the market". "Taken."
That's why she refused to wear one.
Oh, she told people, it was because her head was too big. "Seven and three quarters. Most hats are seven and two quarters. I can't find one. I'd have to get one custom made".
Sometimes she said "And I have curly hair. They just don't fit."
Occasionally, she added that she had a skull deformity, a small lump, left over from childhood concussion. "The blood ran into my sinuses. I looked like a racoon," she added.
The truth was she hated hats.
The young girls wore their hats like tunics of the Knights Templar. The older women were grateful to wear hats that masked their sagging faces, errant facial hairs and lack of make-up.
She would never wear a hat.
The unmarried girls, past the age of choice, sat hatless as well. They would wear hats if they could. Any hat. Stiff berets. Open crocheted caps. Flimsy snoods. Garden hats. Lace squares. Anything. At any time. Yet, as the years went by, they also wore no hats. They faded into the Sabbath scene and sat alongside the widows sometimes helping them locate the page of the service.
The hat be damned.
She was whom she was before she was married. She who loved literature, history and art. She, who laughed with her children at the absurdity of life. She would wear no hat.
Then, one day, at a time of loss, she made a pledge, a promise, she would wear a hat. But she never did. And everyday brought new loss. And she was no longer married.
Was it because she had not kept her word?
Would the hat have protected her from the evil that fell down on her?
She thought of Adam and Eve hiding from the Eternal One.
Gently, gently he drew them out.
"Where are you?" he asked, though he knew full well where they were.
A line of swaying, slender sylphs stood behind her. Alongside her, her own girls stood tall. Someday, to catch the eye of a youth, fall in love, swing through life with dreams, head held aloft, one soul, one body, a gift. A new family.
But now, they were children, their beautiful faces upturned towards her, seeking, searching for answers, guidance.
"There is nothing more wonderful than to be in love," she told them.
It was her gift to them.
"How do you know?" they asked.
You know. When everything goes smoothly, nothing can stop it. When you must be with this person, you must be in his presence, when your face lights up when you see him, when your body feels warm despite the cold, snow, wind.
When you no longer need a hat.
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