It was October, nineteen some-ty something.
Calendars marked that day as Halloween, but at my parochial school it was Hat Day. I was a Kindergarten wreck because I hated my hat.
The night before, my dad brought out supplies to help my sister and I create our contest entries.
With construction and wrapping paper, glue, scissors, fluffy, colorful vintage yarn ribbons (that weren’t yet vintage, to my knowledge) and other crafting supplies gathered on the dining room table, we got to work.
Daddy showed us how to roll our hats to create cone-shaped construction-paper hennin.
My older sister got set making and decorating her own hat, but my little five-year-old hands needed Daddy’s help.
Sissy found a pattern of Christmas wrapping paper she liked, glowing candles, and she started cutting those out and glueing them on her conical hat. The cutout paper candles seemed so warm, and they were Christmassy, and my sister liked them, so I wanted them, too.
But, Daddy was looking through other crafting items to help me with my hat design. I wasn’t having it. I wanted to be like my older sister, so I grumbled a bit while my dad kept decorating my hat. He was having more fun than I was.
We completed our hats (actually, my dad completed mine… my sister completed hers) and left them on the dining table to dry overnight.
The next morning, it was up and at-em to get us to school on time. Our mom dropped us off, and Sissy and I walked toward our separate classrooms.
I was still distraught over my hat. I still wanted it to be like my sister’s. Mine was too different. No one would like it. People would laugh at it. It wouldn’t fit in.
It was almost time to enter the classroom, but I didn’t want to go anywhere near the Kindergarten yard. I was in tears, dragging my hat through the grass and dirt between the first and second grade classrooms. One of the other teachers or an aide saw me and wondered why I was crying.
“I don’t like my hat,” I wept.
Apparently, she didn’t think was that deep, because she didn’t seem as out of sorts as this poor weepy kid. She consoled me a bit and got me where I belonged. Inside that-there classroom.
Fast forward to our Hat Day assembly. The entire school gathered in the auditorium and each class, from K-8 paraded their hats before the entire school. From the dull to the creative, it was always a fun experience. When It was time for our class to parade our hats on stage, the excitement took over, and I don’t recall being puddle of tears anymore. Seeing all the enjoyment packed into that one room was a reason to smile.
When the best hat creations were announced for each age group, I was among the winners. I didn’t go into this to win a thing. I thought what I had to offer, what Daddy crafted for me to present in public, wasn’t up to standard. It was too ugly. It was too different. It didn’t fit in. This word wasn’t in my vocabulary at that time, but it was way too eclectic.
But I was a winner because I took what my Dad poured his heart and enjoyment into and did what I could do with it. I wore it. Can’t say I wore it with pride, but I wore it, I walked the stage and sat down.
That evening, I vaguely remember my sister and I telling Daddy that I was among the winners. I also recall this distinct thought/feeling. Maybe Daddy or Sissy said it, or maybe it was a divine whisper: You may secretly think what you have to present to others isn’t up to par, but you might be surprised. It might be a winner.