The Green Straw Hat

That hat, it always looked at home atop my daddy’s bald head. It was a farmer’s, straw hat that he had spray painted St. Patrick’s Day green. Why he painted it and why it was that particular shade of green I have no idea, other than it was an expression of his offbeat sense of Irish humor. I don’t know how old the thing was but I remembered its presence as a little girl and he was still wearing it just before he died when I was a 30 year old woman.

Somehow that green hat became a part of who he was. Like a Hollywood celebrity sporting designer sunglasses or a politician with a power tie; the green, straw hat became his “Signature Look." Of course he didn’t wear it to work as part of his prison guard uniform or to church on the rare occasions when he went. It seemed to always be part of his attire when he was relaxing at home or doing work in the outdoors.

I can still picture him asleep in the yard, nodding in his favorite chair under the maple trees with his green hat pulled down over his face. If he’d had a little too much to drink the hat would sit crooked on his head or fall off on the ground behind him. Many Summers I watched him plow the field with the mule, sweat running out from under the brim of that green hat.

He wore the hat on afternoon fishing outings with me. He even bought me my own little straw hat with a red ribbon to wear when we went fishing together. By the time I was born my older sister was a teenager and both my brothers had died, so I was my father’s fishing buddy.

We’d sit in the shade on the riverbank or pond bank for hours. He’s push the green hat back on his head so he could look at me and I at him and he’d tell me about his childhood, his mother and father and his nine siblings. He’d describe how hard they all worked on the farm and how they would never have survived without “Thickening gravy.” I treasured those lazy afternoons and the stories my daddy told me.

The green hat became a holiday tradition. At Easter there might be a colorful egg perched halfway in sight under the band. At Christmas a sprig of real mistletoe or a red paper poinsettia decorated the hat and greeted all the family and guests at the door. 

Sometimes when he came in to rest for the night he’d flip that old hat off his head and onto mine. I can still smell the scent of honest sweat and Old Spice that seeped from the hat and infused my reddish-gold curls. I’d go to bed that night feeling safe and happy because the scent of my daddy still lingered around me. 

Strange how after so many years I still get tears in my eyes when I think of the green straw hat. So extraordinary how such an insignificant article can bring back all that a person was and always will be to you again. I can still feel the deep love and respect I had for my father every time I think of his hat. 

When he passed away my mother and I came across the hat when we were going through his things. It was faded and ragged but still carried his scent and my memories. She wanted to throw it away but I insisted on storing it on a shelf. It was there several years. Sometimes when I wished I could talk to Daddy again, I’d secretly take it from the shelf and just hold it in my hands to feel him close to me. 

Someone must have thought it was useless and worthless and they threw the hat away. I still grieved about that, decades later. I’m thankful that our memories are part of us, sealed in our hearts and minds. Even without a material token of their presence in our life, our loved ones live on, in us; as long as we and our love for them remain. I really don’t need that decaying, green, straw hat anymore.

 

Chesterfield, VA

Full time writer and student of life. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=la_B0049A2WF8_B0049A2WF8_sr?rh=i%3Abooks&field-author=La+Belle+Rouge&sort=relevance&ie=UTF8&qid=1521847279