Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Hat

The hat cost $35, more than I had hoped to spend. But this straw Fedora that I found at a stall at The Grove had the advantage of an adjustable interior band, which could be pulled tighter, making it smaller. This feature -- devised by the Chinese manufacturer -- created a hat that would fit my teensy head.

So, I sprung for it. I had been seeking such a hat for weeks. I was worried that my constant baseball cap wearing was thinning my hair. Although a Google search denied baseball caps as the culprits, the fact that I had been wearing them daily against Los Angeles' strong sun, pointed to those canvas covers as guilty parties.

"We all lose some hair as we get older," my daughter, Faith, who has a luscious head of dark brown hair, said.

"But, you can't see it on your head," I said. "With my gray hair, my scalp shows all of the empty places."

I figured that the straw hat, with a weave that allows air to flow through, would not create the heat generated by a baseball cap. Perhaps, my disappearing shoots would magically reappear.

So although the Fedora was purchased as sort of a prescription, I soon found that it was bringing me other benefits: people were stopping me on the street, or calling out from cars with, "Hey, I like your hat!"

With each salute, I'd preen like a beauty queen, which reminded me of my husband Tommy and his Stetson. I can't remember where we bought it, but it's easy for me to recall my late husband's adoration of that hat. Normally, he was a baseball cap kind of guy, and we had upper closet shelves full of imprinted varieties to confirm that. There were dozens hawking colleges, towns, golf courses, and museums.

When we met in 1996, Tommy was already losing his hair. He often told this silly joke: I have wavy hair; it's waving me goodbye. Those in earshot would groan, but that didn't stop him from repeating it whenever he got the chance. And because I found him to be so compatible, so endearing, I'd grin, no matter the number of reruns.

After we married in 1998, and he continued to lose his hair, I urged him to shave it all off. "It's sexy," I would say. What I kept to myself was, Please stop with the comb overs.

Tommy saved his beloved Stetson for evenings out and he would pair it with a leather jacket. This combo pleased him so much, that whenever he'd don this outfit, he'd spend a few minutes sashaying in front of the open hall closet doors.

After Tommy died, and before I left the house we lived in together, I had an estate sale. "Estate" is really a misnomer. The home we shared was a modest three-bedroom, two-story, with a large back yard and front porch. I'm not sure why you need to know that; it's just that I like to resurrect that image whenever I find an opening.

Anyway, now that I've made both of us sad with that picture of lost domesticity, here's another teary tidbit: I included all of my husband's clothing in that sale, including his Stetson. I don't know why I did that; why couldn't I have held on to the Stetson? I have his ashes, his watch, his wedding ring, and his wallet. I could've added the Stetson to the mini-memorial I've set up on my nightstand. But, you're right; maybe it would've been too much.

When I leave the house now, and place my Fedora upon my evidently smaller than normal head, I don't do the cute dance Tommy used to do. But, I do admit to a bit of showing off in front of the round mirror in my entry hall.  I have to do some adjusting before my exit, for although the hat fits width-wise, it is somewhat tall, so I squish it down a bit to look just so.

Of course I wish I could have Tommy on my arm with his Stetson. We'd be an adorable pair; each hat covering up our steady hair loss. But, that's not to be, so I'll wear my straw and tip it to my guy who taught me how to stylishly wear a hat.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

This Roommate Feels Familiar

Her red Van canvas shoes, size 7, are parked under the chair in the hallway. They are nestled next to my weathered Sacony running shoes, size 5. Every morning, when I wake in my Los Angeles apartment, and spy our shoes side-by-side, I feel happy. It's the feeling that originated decades ago when I recovered from anesthesia and was informed, it's a girl.

My daughter, Faith, was my firstborn, into the world 18 months before her sister, Jill. For half of the year, Faith lives in Boston, with her 12-year-old daughter, Betsy, and their extended family. This is Faith's second season writing on her sister Jill's Amazon Series, "Transparent." Instead of couch surfing like she did during Season One, she has accepted my invitation to be my roommate.

"We'll see how it goes," I had said, when upon arriving in L.A., I opted to seek a larger apartment that could accommodate the two of us, rather than a studio for just me. I was pretty confident the arrangement would work -- Faith is an easygoing sort of gal -- and that the money she would contribute to my rent would make the tab easier for me.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Momma," she said. I should mention she is also sweetly optimistic.

I insisted Faith take the one bedroom for herself because I wake at 4 a.m. and jump into my home office. I purchased an IKEA sofa bed, which is providing me with excellent sleep. "It's my own studio," I say, when she repeats her guilt for taking the bedroom.

"I can get up, turn on lights, make coffee, write in my journal, and get on my laptop. I couldn't do that if you were on the sofa bed," I add, smug about my longtime routine.

Of course, we've each had to make compromises to oblige our lifestyles. I watch my critically acclaimed TV shows before she gets home from work. Then, I turn the remote over to her for reality shows. "The Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "Beverly Hills" are her favorites.

Faith turns off the living room television at 8 p.m. when it's lights out for this early bird. Often, I'll lounge on the opened sofa bed and try to watch her shows, but having Donald Trump being the last image you see before dreamland is not something I'd recommend.

I don't insist that Faith make her bed or tidy up her room before she leaves for work. It's a method I employed when she and her sister were toddlers: I just close the door. I suppose I should tell you I was a calm parent, madly in love with my two daughters. In my eyes, they could do no wrong.

I raised them without judgment because I wanted to do the opposite of my mother. Their grandmother undoubtedly loved me, but her criticism of my weight, my slouch, and other attributes that reminded her of my father, who she nagged often, wounded me.

I was also guided by a classic parenting book, "Children The Challenge" by Rudolf Dreikurs. His lessons "natural consequences" and "let the children handle their own battles" suited my style. Consequently, I never interfered if they were fussing with each other. I simply stayed out of their disagreements, and encouraged them to figure out how to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Back to the adjustments as a roommate: Faith has to remind me, "Please close the bathroom door, Momma."

I reply, "Oh, sorry, I'm so used to living on my own." But, this is false, for when Tommy was alive; we never closed the bathroom door. In fact, I think that was one of my favorite parts about our compatible 14-year-marriage. Keep the bathroom door open to continue conversations. For comfort, dispense of my bra when in the house. Leave on the hall table the baseball cap that covered his balding dome.

Actually, in many ways Faith reminds me of the pleasure and ease of living with Tommy. There's the heart bounce when the front door opens and a familiar voice announces, "I'm home," and their appreciation of my simple dinners. Tommy would gladly eat anything I cooked; my daughter is grateful for the Gelson's-prepared food that awaits her at day's end.

These comparisons bring up another reminder: Tommy's size 9 running shoes would sit at the bottom of the stairs in our Chicago house. That's where I would perch, too, to remove my 5's. Two pair of shoes nestled side-by-side; what could be sweeter, or so familiar.