In my years at college, I have discovered that I am a grandma. With this title comes a lot of jokes, particularly that I’m going to be a little old cat lady when I grow up. But I’ve decided that I’m going to be a little old hat lady instead. I came to this realization this summer when I counted my hat collection and found I owned over 25 vintage hats. That might not seem like too big of a collection except for the fact that I’ve only been collecting them for about a year.
Growing up, I never wore hats. This was not because I didn’t like them, but because I have what the Mad Hatter would call “a pimple of a head.” My whole life, I’ve had problems finding baseball caps that are tight enough, headbands that stay in place for longer than a minute and sun hats that don’t cover my eyes. This was a problem even in athletics — my head was so small that, when I played softball, I had to wear a visor underneath my helmet to keep it in place.
I say all of that to show that I wasn’t originally a hat girl. I became one when my great grandmother passed away and left me my choice of her old hats. I was shocked to find that not only did they fit my head, but they looked good, too. Luckily for me, ladies of the 40s and 50s had heads of a smaller circumference than the modern woman.
The following Sunday, I decided to debut one of my new hats at church, and I recieved a response I never imagined. People loved it. There were members of my congregation I’d worshipped with my whole life but never spoken to who came up and asked me about my hat. I made so many relationships that first Sunday that have continued to grow since.
The following Sunday, a lady at my church who I had never really spoken with came up to me holding a plastic bag with Spanish wording. She handed it to me and said it was a hat that she bought while in Spain. The next week when I walked into church, I looked around and two or three other women at my congregation were also wearing hats. In the months to follow, I accumulated more and more hats from friends and family.
There are more than 25 hats in my collection. I think I only bought five of them myself. The rest have been given to me. My collection contains hats from my grandma, my great aunt, my best friends and various women at church.
What I love most about my hats is that they have history. Every Sunday morning when I decide which hat to wear, the question is not which color, but rather, which person. Who do I want to honor today? What memories do I want to recount when I’m asked about my hat?
One of my favorite things about wearing my hats is that they become conversation starters and opportunities to share stories.
For me, those stories and the relationships they develop are the best thing about wearing hats. My hats have bridged the gap between myself and the older members of the congregation. They’ve helped me make unlikely friends and have reminded me that everyone desires relationships — sometimes they just need something to start the conversation.
So yes, I’m that girl who is always wearing a hat at church, and when I grow up, I intend to be that old hat lady. Maybe one day I’ll pass on my collection to my great granddaughters and they will learn just how special a couple of hats can be.