The Rabbit Hat

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I had just turned eighteen when I moved to Los Angeles. My mother drove me up and stayed with me in my apartment for the first day while I unpacked. I had just deferred my college admission and would live alone in an apartment overlooking LAX, close to campus in case I decided to enroll the following semester (I did not). As a mother I can only imagine how difficult that was for her. She wasn't dropping me off at college, among potential friends, roommates, the security of living on campus - she was dropping me off at an apartment complex among strangers in a city where I knew no one.

She came to visit me often, especially those first few months. Our first weekend together, my mother and I went shopping on Melrose. Had lunch at Fred Segal followed by a quick peek-a-boo upstairs. In the rear of the store was a mannequin clad in a knit-eared hat. It was handmade, beautiful, cashmere, I quickly scurried to it and tried it on. I turned around to face my mother. She teared up.

She had knit me a hat just like that when I was a baby.

"It was almost identical," she said.

And now here you are all grown up and living on your own and how did it happen so fast it seemed like just yesterday and oh my gosh, Rebecca, are you sure this is a good idea I'm so worried about you and you're only eighteen and this is so hard for a mother one day you will know what I'm talking about and have a baby who you used to dress in little knit hats with ears on them and and and and...

I rolled my eyes. Mom.

But I remembered that hat, not wearing it of course, but from browsing through pictures in my parents' yellowed albums.

That afternoon my mother bought me the hat. She had to, she said, for old times' sake, and for the next year I wore it often. I wore it on my futon watching movies by myself and then later, out with new friends at bars, on weekend trips to Santa Barbara for disco-themed dance parties, to work, to the coffee shop after hours.

Mysteriously, over the months I wore it, it shrunk, suddenly too small for me to wear without looking like I was rocking some kind of sacrilegious Easter yarmulke. So I put it aside. Someday, if I have a daughter, I thought, I'll give it to her. I assumed that would take at least a thousand years. It took eight. Eight years of saving and sniffing and folding and placing the hat gently into suitcases, boxes, stowed away in drawers. Until finally I forgot all about the little hat. It had found itself an old shoe dust-bag along with some old scarves and gloves and costume jewelry, packed away in my old camera bag, hidden under a folder of darkroom printing paper and an old light table I hadn't used in years.

It wasn't until we moved into our new house that I unzipped the backpack and eventually found the hat again, a treasure lurking in an old dust bag.

"For Fable!" I gasped, fishing it out and holding it up. I placed it in her top drawer, under her socks and bloomers and tights and legwarmers...

For a rainy day, I thought. And then, last week, it rained. And rained and rained. On Thursday, I pulled the hat out from Fable's top dresser drawer.

"My mama bought this hat for me when I first moved out on my own," I told her, placing the hat on her head.

Of course Fable didn't care. Instead she started moo-ing. The hat reminded her of a cow, apparently. Even though it clearly was a rabbit. Or a mouse. Or something else, I'm not sure.


"... And now it's yours!" I said, explaining to the back of Fable's head that somehow the hat managed to shrink, perhaps from wearing it to dance parties and in the rain, the wet warping the cashmere. Or perhaps I just grew out of it.

And then I called my mother.

"Mom! Guess what Fable's wearing today?" I said. "The little rabbit hat you bought for me a thousand years ago.... do you remember?"

Of course she did.
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My two favorite pieces in my wardrobe are a pair of black boots that decades ago belonged to my Nana and a gold sequined bolero jacket that lived long before I was born. They were kept safe in my grandmother's closet until they found a home, stories put away and then re-opened with new eyes. Every time I wear the boots I imagine my Nana trying them on in Italy before choosing to take them home. I imagine my great grandmother Frances checking her jacket at Anne Baxter's door, dancing with her husband on a boat in the bay on New Years' Eve...

And even though my hat doesn't possess quite the mystique of the coat and boots, there's still tale behind these old knit ears.
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These days l shop with Fable in mind. Will this last long enough for Fable to wear it, too? I think. Will this dress still be beautiful in fifteen-years in case she decides to borrow it? Will this hat make her smile when she's old enough to appreciate its eccentricity? Will these shoes hold their style through the seasons?

So much has changed in eleven years but there is comfort in objects that barely do. If only because they remind us of people and moments that might be forgotten otherwise. Of the feelings that don't change or barely do.
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Watching Fable in the rabbit hat reminds me of the way my mother looked at me all those years ago when I first tried it on. I was lonely in those days. Excited, too, but also lonely. Frightened bunny. And even though I wanted desperately to be on my own, what I needed most in that moment was to feel like I was still my mother's daughter.

The hat was a comfort. A reminder, even if I didn't need one, that I was adored. That I had grown up, yes. That even though she had helped me pack, sent me off into the world, I would always no the matter, be her babe.

I loved her for that.

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"Does it fit her?" my mother asked over the phone.

"Perfectly," I said.

"Send me a picture?"

"Of course."
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GGC

38 comments:

leaner | 5:45 PM

These are the posts that make me adore your blog. Sure its about your kid, but really its about growing up. Its about family and most of all about love.
Once again, thank you for bring tears to my eyes.

Kathryn | 5:55 PM

My mother gave me a set of Pyrex bowls when I moved out on my own. It wasn't until she came to visit me a few months later that she told me that her mother bought those bowls for her first apartment. Yes, bowls and hats are just stuff. But they are the stuff of life. You're post reminded me of how cool these kinds of gifts are. Thanks.

Erin | 6:01 PM

It is all relative isn't it! Merrick has my Yankee jacket from what I was 4 hanging in his 4 year old closet.......may look like goodwill material to anyone else, but it catches my breath everytime I am hanging his ironman shirts up.

Jessica | 6:17 PM

I love, love, love it. There is something so special about a treasure passed down. For me, it is my great-grandmother's sewing machine. It was collecting dust in my mom's garage until I claimed it and sent it off for repairs. I can't stay away from it, even on nights when I have other things I should be doing.

Your blog is so thoughtful and reflective and always about more than what you read the first time through.

Danielle (elleinadspir) | 6:38 PM

I love that you buy things now thinking of Fable. After our son was born we put away all my husbands music tee shirts thinking how cool they would be for our son to have when he's in high school. Our luck he will think they are lame.,.but hopefully not. Great post. Thank you for sharing it.

Anna | 6:41 PM

No disrespect here, but the cutie-pie hat you have here is crocheted, not knit.

I was lucky enough to learn to knit from my Grandmother who passed away this spring. It was, by far, the most permanent thing she gave me--a reason to think of her every time I took up yarn and needles. After a long hiatus during my teenage years, I took knitting back up in my 20s, and we bonded over it. After she passed away, I realized that not only did I have a bunch of yarn and patterns of hers to remember her by, but the ongoing act of creating stitches; the priceless knowledge she planted with me in my childhood.

SpillingOutBeautiful | 7:38 PM

So sweet. :D

She sounds just like Archer. The same laugh and voice. Way too cute :)

robyn L. | 7:52 PM

Oh my gosh, that video is so cute! I look forward to having fun like that with my girl (who is now almost three months old).

Darcy | 9:23 PM

Once again you make me cry!! I loved this post and I just sent the link to my own mother. It never truly realized how much she loves me until I had a daughter of my own. Thank you so much for sharing.

seekingclarav | 9:54 PM

Super sweet post. I love little girly voices!

A few years ago after my grandmother passed I went to Switzerland with my mother to help sort through her things. I was so amazed by her. She took such good care of her things, and she had a lot of things! Growing up, I didn't really know her because she lived over seas but my god, I learned so much about her during that trip. I was able to take a few things home including a red leather "purse" with a silver loop handle and a pair of white leather gloves with black thread stiched into designs. Our hands were exactly the same size. My mother also gave me a picture of my grandmother standing with a group of her friends, all dressed up fancy, holding that red bag.

I look forward to passing these things on to my daughter, so full of our family history. It is truly special.

Elizabeth | 10:43 PM

Another tear-jerker! I can only imagine how you and your mother feel if I'm just some stranger sitting here with misty eyes.

Anne | 11:52 PM

That is so sweet. The bond that you and your mom have is so inspiring.

I can totally imagine how Fable is going to be like when she's older when I see these little clips. She's looking so grown up already.

Jennifer | 4:46 AM

I love the idea of choosing clothes that will last long enough for your daughter to wear them. My daughter (age 6) already likes to steal my favourite t-shirts and jewellery to wear. I still have a few items that I stole from my mother when I was a teenager as well as a cardigan I took from my dad.

Lovely blog post.

Anonymous | 5:41 AM

I think it looks like a lamb hat :)

Meemo | 6:18 AM

This post got me all ferklempt. This is why I love your blog man.

Alas, I have 3 boys and will not be able to share such things with a daughter. But you never know, one of my boys might want to wear one of my dressed some day.

Claire Bidwell Smith | 6:40 AM

Just lovely.

My Bottle's Up! | 6:51 AM

oh lady, what a perfect and priceless moment.

you weave such beautiful stories in this loom of yours.

Anonymous | 8:11 AM

This is you at your absolute best as a storyteller. Thank you :)

Mommy Lisa | 8:36 AM

Awesome. I have my great-grandmother's pearls...and a few things of my cousin's who passed when we were both just 22.

lovely hat.

Amanda | 9:07 AM

That Fable....what a rainbow of a girl. I love stories like this, it really changes the day for me.

Lara | 9:13 AM

Goddammit Rebecca. Did you HAVE to make me cry over my Cheerios? Seriously?! LOL.

You are a very talented writer.

Meg | 10:39 AM

Well sh*t. Now I'm crying.

Mar | 10:46 AM

I love your writting, beautiful! And Fable is so sweet!!

Glenda | 11:22 AM

These are the post that make me get goosebumps. A mothers love. A mother/daughter bond. Love it! thanks for sharing! love your blog! you need to write another book!

Anonymous | 12:42 PM

Wow Rebecca. This is truly truly beautiful writing. I am tearing up and I don't even know you! Keep up the awesome work--it is tremendously appreciated.

flyrish | 2:21 PM

First of all, Fable shaking her head and mooing and then giggling basically made my whole existence. She is such a sweetheart!

And I love the history of the hat you've shared with us. So beautifully as always.

Baby in Broad | 3:01 PM

So dear. The hat and your story remind me of The Runaway Bunny.

If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.

dietplaid | 3:15 PM

I love it! This reminds me of a brown hoodie my brothers had when they were tiny twins. We always put it on Greg I think, and it had little felt moose antlers on it. They were so cute in it. And now they're fighting over a desk they're building...good times.

Ellen | 6:22 PM

I met a family with another kiddo named Fable today! Have you met any other Fables?

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:14 PM

Nope. Never. Have heard from readers who have named their daughter(s) Fable but never met one.

Thank you all for your kind words and stories. Much love to all of you. xo!

Alex | 8:27 PM

That was a really beautiful story. You're a great story teller. Almost like its fiction...BUT in a GOOD way.

Mavis Hayes | 9:39 PM

Wow. That was a heartwarming blog post. I envy you cause you have a daughter, I only have two boys. I can share this with them except for food. But again, the mere thought of you passing the treasured things that you once had when you were just a child brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this memory of yours.

Kara | 11:26 PM

Rebecca, Fable is so so beautiful. She has the air of a wise woman but then she opens her mouth and that adorable and wonderful child voice comes out full of happiness. Gah. Makes my ovaries tingle.

Poppy | 2:55 AM

I kid you not, I am sitting here bawling my eyes out because she looks so charming, so sweet and so grown up!

I can't believe I was here with you reading along when you were pregnant with her!

Before her even!

I feel old.

I'm going to go stare at my sleeping babies.

Bwaaaaahhhhh! [runs from room in tears]

Meghan | 10:14 AM

She is so dang cute! I save all of the hats that my mom knits for me so that one day my child can wear them.

And thank you for your kind words.

Expatriate Chef | 1:16 PM

I love the hats with ears. I saved them all, hoping for the second child my spouse doesn't want, as that door closes the one I dream of adopting ... and also saving it for, well, my kiddo's kiddo(s). Lovely post and photos.

mommymae | 11:20 AM

i have some fabulous vintage clothes (that are all too fancy to wear on the daily) that i hope my 3 girls fight over. the newest addition is the emerald alexander mcqueen dress i snagged for $145. score!

love the tale of the chapeau and how tickled fabes is by it.

Ray | 5:27 PM

What a beautiful story. And what a wonderful hand-me-down. Now I want a Rabbit hat (to wear inside of course). ;o)