The manchild’s cough kept waking his parents up all night, and his room is at the far corner of the house away from ours. Even before we fully woke up, I think we realized he wasn’t going to school that day. And then, of course, one quick look out the window suggested that, even if he miraculously recovered within the next 30 minutes, we weren’t going to be seeing school buses soon. I got him up, shuffled him downstairs, and parked him to watch the TV news while I made him some hot tea.
He stayed watching it, eyes glued to the crawler, hoping against hope that “2 HOUR DELAY” will turn to “CLOSED.” Personally, I doubted it would — the snow was slowing down and we’d only gotten about an inch — but the truth is the point was moot. He wasn’t going to school that day.
The same could be said for me, however! I might even ultimately be braving the great outdoors. Certainly not before lots more coffee, though, and certainly not with wet hair and no hat (my mother would kill me if I went outside with wet hair and no hat in this weather). As a littler kid, I’d just comply, though by my teens, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a hat, particularly not a handmade one. At our home in New Hampshire, in an bushel basket by the door there was a seemingly limitless supply of hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and the like. We needed that many, of course, because of the following types of events:
- Wretched daughter wears hat to school in the morning. In the afternoon, she forgets hat and it stays at school. The following morning, when it’s time for said wretched daughter to head out to wait for the bus, another hat must be found.
- Hat simply cannot be found. It must be on the school bus.
- While building a snow fort, mittens and hat became incredibly sodden, and are still steaming dry over near the woodstove.
- One mitten or glove has gone rogue. It probably happened outside, and it’s definitely snowed more since then. We won’t find that till spring.
- Despite all due care and the following of routine best practices for handling of woolen winter wear, that hat which fell in the driveway, was run over by the car, frozen into a solid plank, then brought inside and carefully thawed and then dried by the woodstove, has shrunk.
- I can’t wear that hat. It’s pink. Make Molly wear it. She likes pink stuff. (Alternatively, Molly’s version: “I can’t wear that hat! It’s brown! Make Abby wear it, she doesn’t care as long as it isn’t pink!”)
- Some random person came to the house, hatless, and now plans to leave… thus going outside without a hat. This cannot be allowed.
I made hats back then. There were knitted hats and crocheted hats. My mother made hats, there were hats my grandmother had made, hats that came from the hands of my mother’s aunts, hats of scratchy wool, hats of the finest materials you could imagine, hats of handspun, colourwork hats, hats that matched mittens and gloves, just every imaginable kind of hat (not to mention all the mittens, gloves, and scarves). Even though items from that basket would be lost (totally normal winterwear attrition — these things just happen!), it never seemed like the supply got any shorter. Perhaps that’s because, apparently, in my family we have a multigenerational tradition of simply making winter woolens at random. Or perhaps it’s to do with wearing hats when it’s cold.
As I was writing this, I said to myself, “I bet my mother still won’t let anybody walk outside in the winter without a hat.” So I called her up to ask.
“So I was wondering,” I told her. “You remember the huge basket of hats and gloves and mittens and everything, by the door?”
“Of course,” she said. “In case anybody was going to go out without a hat.” I explained that I was in the middle of blogging about just this fact, and needed to confirm — “Oh! Well, we don’t have it in a basket anymore, but the hall table with drawers and everything is still full of hats, absolutely. And you know, there are some really nice hats in there that nobody’s wearing much right now.”
I told her I remembered the hats and mittens all being handmade; she said this was, indeed, pretty much the case, although nowadays, you’d likely find a few oddments of polar fleece and so forth. “You know what’s a shame,” she said, “is that nobody wears some of my favourites. For example, one of the nicest is that Afghan hat of Ed’s.” We had to discuss that one a while till I was sure which hat that was. “You know, it’s from a heavy twill of some sort, it’s about a foot long and you roll it up…” Then I had to google around for one. Turns out it’s an Afghani Pakol. Indeed, a very nice hat.
“So another thing I was wondering,” I told my mother, “is if, when you were growing up, your mother also had a huge basket of winter woolens.”
“You should call her up and ask,” she suggested. I agreed, and asked if my grandmother had been in on the plot to make sure nobody went outside without a hat on, and what about my great-grandmother? We discussed the problems that are purported to occur due to lack of a hat, or injudicious going outside in the cold (like, you should smile when you do it, lest your face freeze in a frown), and then with a sigh I went to inform the lad he wasn’t going to school regardless. At least he wasn’t missing out on a whole snow day, I told him. He didn’t much care — proof of illness, to be sure.
I must not have made him a good enough hat this year. And even though I churned out probably a half-dozen hats, I still seem not to have one, and I haven’t replaced my better half’s hat from probably 2003. Two hats went to a swap (it was going to be one, but then I wasn’t sure I liked it, and then I got my hat from the swap (for which mine was late) and it was really nice, so I made a second one). Then there’s the manchild’s hat for the year, which I ended up really liking the design of, and re-making in a languishing skein of merino/silk/angora that I’d had lying around… only to decide when all was said and done that the hat was fugly in that yarn, but hey, I’d had the yarn waiting to be used for several years, so at least now it was a hat. So then I started thinking, “You know, this would be a perfect hat to use up that one random skein of millspun space-dyed alpaca that looks like 1970s airline upholstery, but I like it in spite of myself,” and got started making one with that. And that looks great… but the circular needles I had in that size were killing my hands. Therefore, the hat is now sitting half-done next to my comfy chair. Which, I’ll add, is where the yarn is that I should be finishing the cable ply on so I can replace that 2003 hat. And then there’s the “no, really, this one is good enough” version of the manchild’s hat… which is presently the one being worked on, creating a swatching backlog for some other things. Seriously. Plus the colourwork hat I finished, hated, ripped, and restarted.
I guess that the only thing I can really say for all of this is… well, two things. One, I used up some random skeins of yarn that have been taunting me for years. And two, they’re now hats for the hat bin. I’m on my way to growing up, I guess — to taking my place among the matriarchs of my lineage, as the owner of a vast bin of hats, most handknit or crocheted, the majority of those handspun as well.
I can’t help but wonder if my son’s going to need a hat bin when he grows up.