Sunday, May 30, 2010


When I was a wee lad growing up in the Catholic Church married women wore hats to Church every Sunday. I have some distant memories of it. The tradition, of course, comes from 1 Corinthians 11: 4-11. I’ll leave you to read it for yourself but it is quite interesting, and if still observed would give Sunday worship an entirely different look.

Then women quit wearing hats to Sunday Mass; I vaguely remember my mother telling me that they were no longer required. Women don’t wear hats anymore, which is fine. Guys wear baseball caps, usually for one of two reasons. Either their hair is messed up and they don’t want to wash it, or they have no hair at all. Why women wear hats at all is a mystery to men.

About a year ago Lynne went on a “hat kick.” If you look on eBay lots of vintage hats from the New York and Paris designer houses in the Fifties and Sixties on have come up for sale, and the prices are very reasonable. No doubt the ladies who bought these and kept them have passed away, and the families have decided to sell them.

So Lynne became a hat sniper on eBay, and I started coming home to boxes and boxes of hats in the dining room. I was amazed. Some of them were in their original boxes, and they were in flawless condition. (I was, of course, observing Rule One: Keep momma happy.)

I saw everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Who are these people who dream up these designs? One of them looked like a Stay Puft marshmallow. Another one was suitable for the first manned mission to Mars. Lynne knew that her father was in poor health, and she bought a “bee keeper’s” mourning hat with an extraordinary veil. I’ve posted a photo of her wearing it a long with a mink stole we found years ago in a thrift shop for a song. The look is totally retro, but charming. Other hats were exquisite concoctions of feathers, velvet, fur, and a few things I simply did not recognize.

I had a lot of fun watching Lynne try them on, and she was thrilled with collecting and wearing them. She started wearing hats to Church on Sunday, and rarely left the house without one. The photo on the home page here shows her in one.
When it was Lynne’s turn to host the Bas Bleu Book Club at our house they were reading one of those Southern chic lit books about crazy people, and they decided to go in character. Everyone wore a hat. I’ve posted a photo from it. If you look closely in the back row you will see a sighting rarer than Bachman’s Warbler: Robin Ciochetty in a hat (the big red one).

When it came time to plan the funeral service someone (I don’t remember who) brought up Lynne’s hats. This was a no-brainer: everyone needed to wear a hat to the funeral. Even better, I decided to get all of Lynne’s hats out, let everyone pick a favorite, and keep it as a memento. (Uh, I am the father of two sons, not much use for them here, although we did save several for them to give to their wives.)

I did not realize she had so many. We covered all of the tables and furniture in the dining  and living room areas!

It started a micro fashion show. The women there helping with the planning started looking around, then picking out hats and trying them on in front of the mirror. It was neat to watch.

A friend loaded up the rest of them so they could be distributed to other friends and to the young ladies Lynne had mentored. When I wrote Lynne’s obituary I asked the ladies to wear hats.

That they did. The visitation was a river of ladies in hats. At the funeral one of the pastors made note of the hatfest, and asked everyone wearing a hat in honor of Lynne stand up.

I stood up, and looking around saw dozens of ladies stand up. A sea of hats! Such a unique tribute to my wife, and a way to make the funeral celebration something special everyone could belong to.

I don’t know why, but writing this makes my eyes well with tears, and my nose a little runny.

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