Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Hat I Didn't Donate

I've been working hard lately on my living space. We have been editing and organizing our belongings. The things we are keeping are lovingly displayed, put away mindfully and stored in ways that make sense.

Many items have lost their relevance. If they are in good enough condition, we've donated them to family members, the farmer’s market fabric recycling or the Salvation Army.

We've been able to throw away lots of old financial records and stuff in poor condition that is just taking up what I like to call valuable real estate. We live in NYC. We have big closets, but no attic or basement. We don't even have a junk room.

It's been quite mind-clearing and liberating.

Recently I opened a huge, beat up Rubbermaid box where we've been keeping our off -season items for as long as I can remember. In the spring and then the fall, there is an activity I call switching the closets and drawers. It's exactly what it sounds like. Because I have growing children, it also means editing out outgrown clothes and incorporating the larger things I've saved.

I started sorting things. I came across a winter hat. This is a hat that is no longer worn. My first instinct was to put it in the rapidly growing donate pile. The pile with the bathing suits that no longer fit, the tee shirts that are deemed too babyish and the shorts that one child wore that would certainly be too scratchy for the other.

The idea of donating this hat felt suddenly devastating. So I stopped and listened. Because I have successfully given away so many things without a trace of heartache or hesitation gave me special credibility in my own mind. It looked as though I needed to keep this hat.

This hat did not belong to my son that died. It belonged to the living, breathing, growth spurting boy, bustling about with his size 11 feet, taking up his fair share of space, both mental and physical.

This hat wasn't one from his babyhood, sweetly placed on that tiny head when I brought him home from the hospital in December of 2000.

This hat is more recent that that.

The hat was either a Christmas gift or a birthday gift from my mother. She has a knack for figuring out what this child needs to wear when. The hat was a big hit with him. It's soft and velvety on the outside and fluffy and plush on the inside. It had flaps to keep his ears covered. Ever since he was a newborn, this kid has hated any kind of wind.

He wore this hat for three winters straight, from 6th through 8th grade. This hat kept him warm and comfortable that whole time.

I could list all of the things that my boy and I experienced together while he was wearing the hat. Suffice it to say I will never forget these times. Three winters is a long time in a boy's life. A lot of growing happened and a lot of making me proud.

The hat became a signature piece for my boy. Until it wasn't anymore.

In December of last year, my son surprised me by wanting to browse with me at a craft fair. He suddenly had the bandwidth for this activity. He selected a brand new hat out of the blue. It was an updated classic. When he tried it on, he looked like a combination of a GQ model and a hipster.

He wore this hat every day until he misplaced it, and then located it again in the lost and found box at school. I finally put it away in the off-season drawer. Our renovation affords us the luxury of getting rid of the banged up, cracked Rubbermaid box.

This was the new signature piece. It was the 9th grade hat. Time will tell if it is also a winter of 10th grade hat or not. I suspect it will. He was pretty happy to see it once he laid his hands on it again.

There are times when I feel no need to keep an object. I'll remember the Pokémon pajamas in my heart. I have pictures of him wearing the threadbare Little Miss Spider shirt he was so attached to when he was five.

But this hat is different. My son has moved on to a new hat. It's only right. Growing up is his job. I'm glad to see him do this. Especially after what transpired before, with his brother.

It was his hat for so long that I cannot imagine anyone else wearing it. It's like Patrick Ewing and the number 33 jersey. Number 33 is his number. And this is my son's hat.

There is a small pile of precious clothing at the bottom of the Rubbermaid box. These are the items that I didn't let go of. The baby stuff is somewhere else with the baby stuff. This is different.

The purple sweater my son wore day in day out in nursery school will be kept. There are other signature pieces too. They won't live in the Rubbermaid box anymore. I'm getting something nice for them from The Container Store.

I'm keeping this hat for the rest of my life.

I'll be 75 years old someday, god willing. I'll have my box on an accessible shelf. I'll take it down and run my fingers over the soft clothes. They're all soft because that's all this child will wear.

I'll remember the fit he pitched on a busy sidewalk one day and how he recovered and then devoured some pizza. I'll remember how he survived croup like nothing ever happened. I'll remember the extraordinary two year old who said please put me to bed mommy when it looked like I might be too busy socializing to remember that it was past his bedtime.

The other day my son and I were having a conversation. He was having a craving for his Dad's brownies. Let's ask dad to make some, I said.

What will happen when I grow up and I don't live with you anymore, he asked? Will dad send me some brownies? He seemed to need some reassurance.

Of course he will, I said. Dad could also use your kitchen to do some baking for you when we come to visit.  Would you like us to visit? He nodded yes.

I thought about the idea that my son could grow up to be a baker like his dad. Maybe he'll make his own brownies and invent his own recipe. I decided not to mention that yet. At this juncture I like thinking about the first scenario better.

Here is the hat I will be keeping for the rest of my life.

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