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The Red Hat

It was a few days after Christmas and I received a notice from the post office that a package was waiting for me. The notice arrived on a particularly snowy Wednesday afternoon. So snowy in fact that I thought twice about driving the 12 miles into town to pick it up. It was from my sister-in-law. It had been almost 13 years since my brother Jon had passed away, but I didn’t find it unusual that she was sending me something. We were still close, as close as sisters, able to talk about anything with one another.

I knew that she had sifted through some of my brother’s memorabilia. She was moving from the house that she had shared with Jon and their daughter, Martha. She was moving on, retiring, and moving into a home with her partner Andy. A couple of months back we had chatted about a box full of old slides, pictures of times long ago that she had found in the basement. Jon loved taking photographs and as I pulled them from the box I realized that here on the table was a trip down memory lane.


As the snow continued to fall I settled in with a glass of red wine and dinner bubbling away on the stove. I found an envelop marked “these are the oldest!” so I started there. I held each one up to the light shining over my dining room table. There was a picture of me, floating in our swimming pool, on a styrofoam surfboard with my dog Fritz. I took a deep breath as the memories flooded my mind. I allowed myself to feel, to smell, to touch the sensations that came with that one slide.

In the box were pictures of my ancestors. Great-grandparents that I had never met. I studied their faces, trying to picture what kind of life they had lived. Long dresses, button up shoes and an artists easel. I can only imagine as the stories of their lives died long ago with so many family members. I wondered what I had inherited from them. Personality traits, traumas, gifts and pain from long ago that had unknowingly been passed down from them to me. I often wonder about that sort of thing.


A picture of my dad from his high school graduation was also in the memory box. I haven’t seen my dad in a few years because of a mis-understanding, a hurt that I know is still present in my heart. We talk from time to time but the phone calls are really about surface stuff. The weather is always a safe subject, void of memories and pain. I suddenly realize that I am ready to heal those hurts. I don’t want to pass on any of my suffering to my children. I want to pass on my joy.

The one item that caused me to gasp was this red hat. My brother Jon wore this hat, a lot. He paired it with a grey jacket that had pink fleece on the inside. I miss him, especially this time of year. He would give silly gifts, antique store treasures. A dinner plate that had the “1960” calendar on it was one of the gifts I received.  I was born in 1960 and I have used that plate so much that the gold lettering is now fading. My memories of him aren’t. He was a gift, a treasure to me. He was my soulmate. He still is, from a place far beyond. A place that we can only imagine.



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