My best friend, Michelle, (who gave me the dress in The First Hat) was getting married, and I knew I wanted a hat for the occasion.
She’d asked me to sing during the ceremony. “We like this song, ‘The Wedding Song’? Have you heard of it?”
“Everyone’s heard of it,” I replied, relieved that she hadn’t asked for something more obscure and difficult. Having never sung a solo at a wedding before, I was glad to sing a song I already knew. Hopefully familiarity would keep my voice from quavering.
Michelle had a beautiful outdoor venue for the ceremony, so a hat would be very appropriate. And one day, as I was walking through an art fair, I saw this blue hat. I especially liked its small brim, which wouldn’t block my vision or get in my way during singing. I really liked the blue color, as well. I was sure I could easily match it.
Well, I couldn’t. It turned out the hat was a warm grayish blue that didn’t match any of the summery, flowery frocks I’d pictured. I finally settled on a print coat dress of navy with light blue accents, not a typical dress for a garden wedding. Here we are, after the ceremony:
I put off writing this post because when I started this blog, Michelle and I hadn’t talked for a couple of years. Even when we’d lived nearby, it was hard to get together. She worked full time and had two kids. Since I worked evenings, our schedules didn't mesh well for phone calls, and we'd usually have to try several times before reaching each other.
Because of her kids, going out was difficult for her and coming to my house was just as hard. So if we got together, it had to be dinner at her place. I felt bad never being able to host.
And of course, our lives were different. She had children and I didn’t. She had a high-powered job and I worked part time. We didn’t work in the same field or pursue the same hobbies. However, a friend you've had since grade school is not like another friend. You've known each other so long that history has a gravitational pull that helps hold you together. But that pull can weaken.
After I moved four years ago, she’d called me a few times, and once we’d gotten together when I visited the Bay Area, but it was hard keeping in contact. She’s not on social media. She had a home email but wasn’t in the habit of checking it often. I didn't have a smart phone and didn't text.
One day when I was feeling sad and lonely after the move, I wrote her a note saying I didn’t think we should keep up the friendship if we had so little contact.
Of course, when I was over my depressed mood, I regretted my note. I treasured our contact, even if it wasn't constant. I wrote her a couple of emails to the old email address I had, but I wasn’t sure she’d even gotten them. I sent Christmas cards. I could have called her, but I hesitated. I wasn’t sure she’d want a call from me, since I’d been the one to sever the friendship.
When I wrote about her in the first hat blog entry, I emailed her to tell her about it. As usual, I wasn’t sure if my mail had reached her--the address was over four years old, and she had never seemed to check it much.
Months passed. When I was preparing to write about the Black Cloche with Red Flowers, I searched through my stash of old pictures fruitlessly for the shot of me at the ship’s wheel. Then my husband got out his box of pictures. While looking through them, he came across some I’d taken of Michelle and her sister and mother at her bridal shower. (I didn’t have a camera at that time and had borrowed his.) We had double prints. I gathered the extras of the shower pictures and sent them to her.
She called me to thank me, and we talked for the first time in a few years, catching up. Being reconnected felt wonderful, a burden lifted, a tie restored. I'd missed Michelle, her warmth, generosity, and humor. When the pandemic struck, we texted each other to make sure our families were OK. And then, when I wanted to write this post, I texted her, asking if she was OK with me using the wedding picture. She said yes, adding how cute we looked. I think we look cute because we look so happy.
So, it’s a good thing I waited to wear this hat, so I could give the story a happy ending. Michelle holds a special place in my heart. With no one else outside my family do I have such a shared history: gathering in our grade school club that met under a pine tree, drinking lemonade in her tree house, calling before seventh grade started to discuss what outfit to wear, passing notes on the high school choir tour bus ride, listening to each other’s early heartbreaks, serving her my horrible first attempt to grill fish in my first apartment, introducing boyfriends, being in each other’s weddings. Being there for each other through so much of life. I’m glad I didn’t lose Michelle, whose friendship means so much to me.
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Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.