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Visiting the Hat

It’s the holiday season and everyone has their own traditions. Some people send cards. Some people bake. Some people give to donations to charity in lieu of gifts. I visit a hat.

Helen Louise Carter “Grandma Lou” 1924-2003

My grandmother, Grandma Lou, was a beautiful woman – on the inside and out. She had the most generous and loving spirit that lit up a room. She had a closet filled with beautiful clothes and she never left the house without “putting on her face.” As she aged, her hair started to thin. Not letting that stop her, she invested in various wigs, head wraps, and hats to wear on the days she didn’t have time or desire to meticulously curl and fluff her hair. She became so well known for her hats that at her funeral, her 17 grandchildren walked up the aisle, each wearing or carrying one of her hats, and placed them on her casket.

Grandma Lou was a prolific sender of cards. Her calendar was filled with reminders about birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and special events. She never forgot to send a card. She was a frequent flyer at her stationary and gift store called Write Ons. She was there so much she became family to them, and was even invited to the staff’s holiday party. She adored them and they adored her.

When I moved to Phoenix, Write Ons became my card store too. In the first year after Grandma Lou died, I would walk into Write Ons when I missed her and just burst into tears. The women there understood.

Grandma Lou’s Hat – 2012

In her hat collection, Grandma Lou had a Santa hat. Her rule was she couldn’t wear it under “double-digit December” meaning December 10th. When Grandma Lou died, we gave Write Ons her Santa hat. If you turn out the white trim, you can see traces of her make-up on the white faux fur. They placed the hat on an angel and added it to their Christmas display.  They start decorating the store for Christmas in November, but the angel and Grandma’s hat doesn’t come out until December 10th.

I make a year trip to the store in December just to see Grandma’s hat. This year I happened to be there as they brought it out. The hat doesn’t smell like her anymore but the inside of the white trim is still stained with her foundation and powder.  I hugged the angel and carefully carried it through the store to its spot on top of the highest shelf. It’s comforting to know that the joy she added to the holidays is still with us.

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4 Comments

  1. Tiffany Brown says:

    What a beautiful tradition! Viva la chapeau.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks! I always look forward to it. I’m so glad I got to see it when they brought it out this year.

  2. mike cahill says:

    Ruth…
    thanks for sharing this sweet story about your Grandma’s Santa Hat and the card store…So Lou! I was almost as moved by your story as I was by seeing all her grandchildren carry those crazy hats into church at her funeral….I can’t believe it’s almost been 10yrs…
    xoxox
    Mike

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Mikey. Sometimes it feels like we just lost her.