Monday, July 24, 2006

One hat to rule them all

My hat - the one pictured - has been through a lot.

Two presidents, two or three girlfriends, six or seven living arrangements, a Bachelor's degree, two wars, and upteen trips to upteen states. I may have even worn it on September 11.

The summer before sophomore year, my step-mom Becky took us school shopping. We went to Lansing, and it was the first time I'd been to an Old Navy. Exploring the store, they had a set of hats on sale - most of them khaki-colored, and simple designs - and I needed a new one. I had been wearing the same 49ers hat since I was a junior in high school, so I was due for an upgrade.

Shopping through the hats, I found one that fit perfectly. No other one came close. It was like we were bound by destiny to find each other.

Which is why I still have it, six years later (almost exactly).

It's still khaki, but more of a I've-seen-the-world-and-lived-to-tell-about-it khaki. An Indiana Jones khaki.

After a few runs through the washer, the edges of the bill are starting to fray. Sweat and soaked through to the front side. The buckle in the back no longer works.

But Jesus, I love that hat.

I've never found one that's even come close to its perfection. I've owned a few hats since buying the "Old Navy 2000" one - Dayna bought me a great one: green, with "Brooklyn NYC" on it (I thought it was cool just to have "Brooklyn" on a hat), and I wear it once in a while. I also have one for work events, and a few goofy hats here and there. But my Old Navy hat goes with everything, and it's usually my first pick.

Wait, stop. What am I talking about? "Usually?" It's always my first pick.

Lately, though, I've been getting comments like, "You're still wearing that?" And there's usually a little disgust (but I think a little jealousy) in the tone of voice.

But I say, to hell with everyone. That hat has carried me through the greatest years of my life. It's seen everything and everyone I've seen. And dammit all, it still fits like a charm.

This weekend at Dayna'sI met Deb, and she loved my hat too. I'm always a little self-conscious about my hair...

....wait. Stop. "A little?" Jesus, who am I kidding? I'm downright anal.

But anyway, she took off my hat and wore it while we played flippy-cup. I was okay with it being gone for a while, but then I got antsy (even as drunk as I was). I needed that hat on my head.

And so, much like Frodo's ring, it has become a part of me. It's my precious.

I'm wearing the thing until no amount of duct tape and sacrificial lamb's blood can save it.

If you're lucky, I'll let you wear it too.

- - - - -

This weekend was like an ex-girlfriend roundup, Rob Gordon-style. Leah at IKEA, Dayna at her going-away party, and (perhaps?) Katie on the drive home, all I was missing was a few key people on the in-between.

It was nice to be accepted back into Daynas circle: her friends, her family, and even her new boyfriend. At times it was like I never left.

The most touching, though, was when Days dad Mike put his hand on my shoulder, shook my hand, and told me I was welcome at his house anytime I was in the neighborhood.

I meant what I said, he said before he left.

Later, when I was plastered-drunk, and climbing the stairs to the guest room to sleep, I could hear him sleeping, and I thought about all the times before I heard the same thing. About all the time we picked on each other, over breakfast or out on the deck. About how he welcomed me into his home all the times before, for almost two years, and about how much all that meant to me (and about how much that's all been fucked up recently).

I miss it. All of it. But I dont regret how things have turned out since then, and how life has changed so much.

But maybe what this weekend taught me was, sometimes life doesnt change as much as we think.

My visit with Leah while she was at work was a little awkward. Usually, we find all kinds of things to talk about. We catch up, we goof around, just like we always do. This time, though, was different. I asked her about her job, and how it was going, and it started to feel like an question/answer session.

I feel like Im interviewing you, I said.

Her life has changed a lot more than mine - a fiance, a kid, and a new life in a new part of the state will do that. Despite all the time, however, we can still be friends and enjoy each others company, however briefly.

Just the way it should be, I guess. And I wouldn't have been surprised if I would've seen that mysterious, disappearing ex. But it was not to be.

Maybe that's a good thing.

- - - - -

And finally, here's to summer.

Here's to walleye fish-fries, and eating dinner out on the deck, and sweating on the way home from work in my shirt and tie and slacks.

Here's to visiting friends, and heading to the lake to swim, and sun burns that make your entire body peel.

Here's to meeting exciting new people, and revisiting friends, and to staying home most nights and doing my own thing. In shorts and sandals.

Here's to summer. May it never end.

No comments: