Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Hats Make Me Smile

Hats used to be so uncool that I preferred walking to school with icicles in my hair. Apparently using a hair dryer when I was fifteen years old was uncool, too. Anyhow, in the dead of winter in northern lower Michigan I walked a mile or so with wet hair to get an education, and I arrived with icicles over my ears. (Someday I may share these facts with my grandchildren in order to let them know how hard life was, but I'll omit the part about how it was my choice and I'll add that bit about up hill both ways. I always appreciated that snippet of trickery.)

Call it maturity or what you will, nowadays I can't stand going without a hat in cold weather. At the end of last year's hat season, I was faced with a horrible situation--my favorite hat was lost in the Vancouver airport. Yes, it's true! Either someone snatched it from my luggage cart or (more likely) it fell out of my bag as I was shifting my belongings around in preparation for boarding. It was a great hat but can't be seen here because I can't seem to find a single photo of me in it. You'll have to take my word on how lovely it was.

The hat was gifted to me years ago by a dear friend and I initially had a hard time figuring out how to wear it (it was very loose knit, so if I wore it without folding it, my ears suffered from wind zipping through those large holes). When it finally clicked, I wore the hat through several winters. It was angora and had four lovely little flowers at the top. It received many comments and surely beat frozen locks both in comfort and in fashion. When I realized it was gone, I hardly had the opportunity to say goodbye.

However, as any traveler knows, goodbyes are inevitable. Nothing lasts forever and I took the loss in stride, hoping only that someone else came upon my little head-warmer and appreciates her as much as I did (yes, she's a she). And I along my way, I didn't think about the need for a hat all summer long.

Then I visited Lake Michigan in September and was reminded of such things as the gales of November. I would need a hat soon, I knew.

Looking through my mom's closet--still in MI--I came across a big knit hat I wore in college and that I think my mother had worn years before me. I remembered that hat being perfect in warmth and fantastic in fashion, but I also remembered that hat having been unraveled in my college years... Well, some of the memories were foggy and apparently false. I took this hat with me when I returned to Seoul, of course.

My returns to Korea are always somewhat bittersweet. I miss friends and family and a place that feels like home, yet there is something familiar enough about my hovel in Seoul that feels like home, too. It is difficult to exist in a city so large and so impersonal, but I was noticing more and more after this return how happy people (strangers) appeared.

The weather had turned quickly. The wind had picked up and already had a winter-like bite to it. The sun shines throughout the fall and winter seasons here, so I thought perhaps it was relief from the rains that people were smiling about. I wore my 'new old' hat to keep me toasty on the way to and from the subway, and I smiled at smiling people all the way.

Seoul is typically like New York. Folks have places to go and don't often pause to acknowledge strangers (foreign or otherwise) while on their way. But these sudden smiles simply wouldn't cease. One day after work I donned my hat in the elevator. At the 8th floor, a man boarded and grinned at me then looked to the floor. When the doors closed he said something quietly in Korean, smiling all the way. I realized he was referring to my hat, which I tapped and said "it's a great hat, isn't it?" He laughed and deboarded at the 7th floor. (Sidebar: Who takes the elevator from floor 8 to floor 7?) As he exited the elevator he turned to me to say "Thank you for the encouragement." "Thank you for appreciating my hat," I thought in return, but in reality I just smiled and nodded.

As I teacher, I like to think that I encourage people, and it makes me feel good to know when I do. Did I encourage this man to wear a poofy winter hat? Did I encourage him to make fun of me in a poofy winter hat? I really don't care. In fact, I am not at all sure 'encourage' was the correct word to express this fellow's true meaning. Just like I am not sure that 'appreciate' was the correct word to reflect what he was doing when he noticed my hat. But semantics isn't important for me here.

What is important is that people keep smiling at me. That makes it worth not taking the hat off until spring.
All images for this post (excluding the final image) were sourced from google images.
Search: winter hats

No comments:

Post a Comment