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I bought a hat yesterday. If you know me, you know that I am no stranger to hats. I wear them most days.

Beanies and cycling caps mainly. This is a different type of hat—a “I must have this now, you sweet flash of color and jauntiness” type of hat. This is a hat that looked me in the eye and proclaimed: “I am no beanie, you unimaginative fool. I am functional, but I am more swagger. Put me on if you dare.”

I dare. Oh, do I dare.

You don’t scare me, hat.

My first foray into brimmed hats can be traced back to the 5th grade. As is the case with many 5th graders, I was not cool. I loved fashion, ska, soccer, Molly Ringwald movies, and Adam Carney (a crushworthy classmate; unrequited) but my androgynous self whispered vanilla to the world. I presented very small despite my 5’8” frame. I tried to unvanilla myself one day by buying makeup at the local drugstore. I thought I might paint on a new look. However, the checker refused to sell it to me because she thought I was a boy. “Oh hon, boys don’t wear makeup. I’ll just take that back.” My face stung hot and I silently moved out of the way.

But I wasn’t completely defeated. I mean, Molly Ringwald wouldn’t give up, right? She would roll her eyes and ironically pout up a new idea—or maybe just pout and all would come. Regardless, I just needed to work a little harder, be more inventive.

Enter the hat. You never forget your first. This little lovely was a purple straw Panama hat with a jaunty crown and slim brim. I would swap out her band with various bandanas to match my outfits. Looking back, I don’t know if she helped or hurt my look, but I felt different EVERY TIME I put her on. I could feel my eyes twinkle, my smirk turn up the mischief, and my walk do that thang-–that thang it still does today–swagger and glide. Unvanilla, thank you very much.

Purple hat was my accessory for dreaming. She would whisk me away to far off lands where all would hail my coolness and soccer prowess. Adam Carney would be left gutted back at home. “If only I took my chance” he would sadly say to anyone who would listen.

Forty-nine-year-old Robyn dreams of different things now (sorry Adam Carney). It may be the result of middle age or perhaps a life of doing mostly what I want (a rare privilege), that I realized recently that I don’t dream. I mean, sure, I dream of happiness for my children, less suffering for those around me, a painless trip to Winco. But the big fantasies seem to be locked away—imagination on pause.

So, it was with this yearning for dreams that I chose new hat, sweetly colored and jaunty. I took her on a drive today and she brought me home, refusing to stop at my usual haunts for coffee, so that I could remember Molly Ringwald, Adam Carney, fashion, soccer, and ska. She stayed perched at a tilt, as my eyes closed and a swagger that can only be found in the shuttling of memories, imagined and otherwise, danced across my mind’s screen. I dare to see it all.


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