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.
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.
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.
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.
"Does it fit her?" my mother asked over the phone.
"Perfectly," I said.
"Send me a picture?"