Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Hats.




More last things. Today, it was hats. A top cupboard had been opened to reveal a hitherto unperceived collection.

The hats rescued me. I went in to breakfast this morning on a rising tide of tearfulness. As I left the field where I had been tending the horses, a line ran through my head. It said: I am heartbroken. This packing up, this end of my mother’s house, this four days until the dear Stepfather leaves forever is breaking my heart. I feel as filled with impossible emotion as I did in the first days after my mother’s death. It is as if it is happening all over again, and it was bad enough the first time. I don’t know if I have enough heart left to feel this for a second time.

Butch up, butch up, I told myself, hiding my face as I made the eggs. People go through worse things than this.

And then there were the hats. And they were beautiful and eccentric and funny and I thought one day, if I ever get south again, I’ll wear them to the races and think of Mum looking down on me with delight. And I did not want to cry.

Among her lovely hats was a very smart topper. It was the Stepfather’s top hat, a proper article in deep black, made by Mr Lock. Mr Lock, like Mr Kipling, makes exceedingly good hats. ‘I don’t want it,’ said the stepfather. ‘I’ll never wear it again.’ I felt an absurd jolt of happiness. ‘Can I have it?’ I said.

He said I could have it. I put it on. It looked splendid. ‘It’s a bit too big,’ said the Stepfather, doubtfully. I took it off and examined the little leather band inside the crown, which acts as a small, circular pocket. ‘I’ll stuff it,’ I said. And then I opened the band and there, inside, were some folded pieces of paper. ‘Look,’ I said. ‘You stuffed it.’

The folded papers were pages from a racecard. The Royal Hunt Cup, at the Royal Meeting, from many years ago. I loved that it was the Royal Hunt Cup, one of the most impossible to solve handicaps of the entire meeting. It was won a couple of years ago by a dear friend of mine. We used to go and watch Desert Orchid together, when we were blithe twenty-somethings. He always loved racing with a burning passion, and one day he threw up his respectable day job and took out a training licence. I saw him a few months after that glorious victory, with his dear old handicapper, Belgian Bill, and congratulated him with fervour. He smiled all over his dear face. ‘I’m living the dream,’ he said.

The Stepfather said: ‘I went last with your darling mother.’ I thought of them at that storied meeting. I thought of the memories my mother must have had, of the days when she used to go and watch Nijinksy and Mill Reef and the great Brigadier. She saw so many of the great ones, and she remembered them all and talked of them as if they were old friends. Horses like that do feel like old friends.


So, I did not cry, in the end. I’m carrying a lot of tears with me just now, but this morning they did not spill over. The hats saw to that. I went home and wrote three thousand words of book and took a deep breath. This will be over soon, and I can start again. 

12 comments:

  1. I think wearing something and thinking of the person looking down is one of the nicest ways to remember. I keep saying it and am very conscious of its paucity but I am thinking of you Tania, and I hope the horses and the rest of your family will help this, too, pass. x

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  2. And the dogs! How could I forget Stan the Man and Darwin. x

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  3. Hats on account of the horses are a marvellous help. I pressed my Oaks hat into service at my father-in-law's funeral in the year Authorized and Dettori won the Derby. Time measured in Classics is always best. X

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  4. Oh God, now I am crying. My mother bought our hats from Mr Lock and I used to go and watch Desert Orchid with her... I remember her weeping as she cleared out her mother's wardrobe of cashmere sweaters all wrapped immaculately in plastic bags. It's amazing that you managed to write the book in spite of your sadness. Well done, and thank you, Rachel

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  5. I kept my mother's best handbag, and her manicure set, and a 1950s jacket I liked that fitted well.

    Eventually, almost twenty years later, my daughter (who was not even two when my mother died), also wore the jacket, with jeans, when she was an undergraduate.

    You will have fun with your hats - take it from me.

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  6. Let the tears come when they come. And they will come out of the blue sometimes, over the smallest things. It's part of the process of grieving and part of the path to finding a new balance for yourself. :)

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  7. Yes, the tears will come and come and come in their time. And probably for a long time. It's OK.
    The hat story is lovely. I'm glad you kept it.

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  8. A moving post. Thank you. I have had to help my elderly father move twice in the last three years to increasingly smaller accommodation. It is almost physically painful to get rid of photos even when I know they are copies and I am not losing the chance of never seeing the image again. It just seems so disrespectful.
    And it's the nested nature of these things. My grandmother's mementoes of a husband lost too soon nested within the cards and letters kept by her son when she herself died. And now in my care, amongst his papers. In some ways it is a comforting thought. That this backwards pass the parcel will go on down the generations, each new life embracing the last one.

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  9. A moving post. Thank you. I have had to help my elderly father move twice in the last three years to increasingly smaller accommodation. It is almost physically painful to get rid of photos even when I know they are copies and I am not losing the chance of never seeing the image again. It just seems so disrespectful.
    And it's the nested nature of these things. My grandmother's mementoes of a husband lost too soon nested within the cards and letters kept by her son when she herself died. And now in my care, amongst his papers. In some ways it is a comforting thought. That this backwards pass the parcel will go on down the generations, each new life embracing the last one.

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  10. Tania, I hope you will not think I'm an awful person for being just a teensy bit jealous of your collection of vintage hats... especially the topper! Even though I work at a place where we wear jeans and tee shirts to work, and I never go anywhere posh to eat, nor attend the Metropolitan Opera, I have a secret collection of vintage hats. One was given me by my grandmother (RIP) and others were thrift store finds...

    I don't often make requests of other bloggers, but I will this time. When you are able, could you take photos of your mom's hats (maybe have a modeling party with your nieces!) and post them on your blog? One of you in the brim-stuffed top hat, astride Red would be AMAZING! Please, please, please?

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  11. What a wonderful photo - your mother was a beautiful woman!

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