Last week when I was in Eugene for a reading, I stopped by to see my grandma, who wanted me to pick out some of my grandpa's clothes to take home (he passed away several weeks ago). I'm not very fond of wearing hats, and really only do so for sun protection while I'm walking. But I love collecting objects with special personal meaning, and I'm very glad to have the four or five hats I picked up of Grandpa's.
One of the hats I actually got on the day of his graveside service. The family had met at Grandma's house to drive there together, and it was sunnier than expected. I'd forgotten to bring a hat, and even if I'd remembered, it's not like I was gonna wear one of my baseball caps with a suit during my grandfather's funeral. (He got the most impressive 21-gun military salute and flag-draped coffin for his WWII service.) I'm reminded of a "Sopranos" episode when Tony approached another diner in that friend's Italian restaurant they always go to because the diner was wearing a cap at the table. "They took the bleachers out two years ago," Tony told him, veins popping out of his head with agitation. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with that pet-peeve. But luckily Grandma let me wear an old houndstooth-fedora of Grandpa's that went well with the suit and saved my scalp from sunburn.
Another fedora I took home the other day was even snazzier although thinner and more worn. It had a little feather built into one side of the brim. I love to imagine how he must have looked in it. Grandpa wasn't usually a flashy dresser - he favored short sleeves for his oxford shirts, like a NASA engineer at Mission Control. But these were different times, and the average man walking down the street was sporting a suit and hat that would seem like the height of dress-up today. Back when I was working at temp agencies in DC and New York in the early/mid-90s, I got really sick of having an uncomfortable tie, shirt, slacks and loafers on. But when I see a guy wearing jeans and a Cosby sweater to the symphony, I'm almost ready to pull a Tony moment of my own.
That said, I also took three baseball caps of Grandpa's. One I'd never seen before, but I loved the vintage-style graphics of "Hawaii" written in cursive like the name of a little league team. Another had a white foam front with a drawing of a woodpecker. Who wears a baseball hat with a drawing of a woodpecker? I do remember it hanging on Grandpa and Grandma's hallway hat rack for many a decade, though.
Same goes for a Nebraska Cornhuskers cap I took home that I remember Grandpa wearing a time or two. No matter how much my dad and I worshiped the Oregon Ducks, Grandpa was never that into football or other sports. But since he was born and raised in a small Nebraska town, this cap remained in the house as various TVs, dining room tables and chairs were changed in and out.
Incidentally, it only now just occurred to me that all these caps are red and white. Must be kind of like how about two-thirds of my wardrobe is blue.
The hat of Grandpa's that I've actually worn regularly is a more casual brimmed job, kind of like Gilligan wore on Gilligan's Island. Or perhaps it's actually more like Truman Capote's. Anyway, it's perfect for wearing on my summertime walks, covering my ears and my neck better than the standard baseball cap. I also dig the brown and orange stripes going around the hat. I was actually about to order a similar one from the J.Crew sale catalog when Grandma gave me this one. Who knew Grandpa had such style? I loved the guy, but I was more used to a pocket protector and polyester pants. I'd love to have known the younger man in the fedora, or even the Gilligan hat.