Hats

April 17 - CNI

People collect the darndest things ranging all the way from freebees like string and bottle caps, to expensive antique cars and even mansions.

One reason people collect things is to savor the memory of a particular time and place. Collecting seashells and stones from beaches is pretty common. They're small and cost nothing, except of course the price of the air line ticket and the hotel. But heck, if you're there anyway, seashells and stones are a good bet for souvenirs.

Collecting can provide a social life for people of like mind. Stamp collectors often join clubs or develop friendships based on their shared reverence for art, engraving, and history.

Collecting can take people to places they've never been before. A salt shaker, a charm, or a spoon from every state requires some traveling.

A collection can sometimes turn out to be a nightmare. When does a person own a collection, and when does the collection own the collector? Once friends and relatives get on to the fact that you collect goats, for example, you might find yourself inundated with goat calendars, goat post cards, goat pitchers, goat tables and stuffed goats without ever having to leave home.

I didn't consider myself a collector until a friend pointed out the number of hats I own. I certainly didn't start out with the intention to amass a collection. How many items does it take for an accumulation to qualify as a collection? Ten? Thirty? Fifty? I'm not telling how many hats I own.

Generally speaking, I don't like shopping, but I never go on a trip without buying at least one hat. The day I found myself in Monte Marte where there were street vendors selling wild hats of the Dr. Suess and court jester variety, oh boy! By the time I got to London I was lugging six rather cumbersome hats. They weren't heavy, but I didn't want to crush the precious things. And in London, oh my, more hat vendors. I was in hat heaven. I was in trouble. Where was the "off" button.

The trip home was a bit awkward. I stuffed smaller hats inside larger ones, put them in three large plastic bags and stuffed tissue paper around them. The largest hat I put on my head. The flight was seven hours. A kind gentleman offered to hold the one bag that wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment while I ate my lunch. The bus driver that drove me from the airport to my pickup point wanted to put my hats in the luggage compartment under the bus. I said, no way. You can take my suitcase and even my purse if you must, but these stay with me.

The bus was crowded and I got a few peculiar glances but I held all my hats right there on my lap. I took an aisle seat. I couldn't have seen out the window anyway. After several hours of travel, my precious darlings and I arrived home unscathed. They now adorn the shelves in my office along with my books.

Okay, I admit it I'm a collector.

Most collectors don't actually use the objects they accumulate. Stamp collectors wouldn't dream of actually using a valuable stamp to send a letter. I know a camera collector who wouldn't dream of taking a picture with the cameras in his collection. He keeps them behind glass. I asked him why he collects them if he has no intention of using them. He looked at me as if I was crazy. "Non collectors don't understand the reverence a camera collector has for craftsmanship. We're moving so quickly from a mechanical age to an electronic one." He opened the glass door, picked up a camera and fondled it.

"They're just so beautiful."

That's why I never thought of myself as a collector. I don't just look at my hats. I wear them! And I invite others to wear them. If you attend a party at my house you will probably be goaded into donning a hat, and don't be surprised if you find yourself posing for pictures with other guests in hats. I share my hats happily but they clearly belong to me. I own them.

I rarely go out in public without a hat, and lately, I refuse to have my picture taken without one.

Ever have a bad hair day? For me, everyday is a bad hair day. I love my hats and my hats love me.

—M. LaCourt

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