Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How Hats Tell Stories: Learning about my next door neighbor

I absolutely love stick ups! At least I do when they occur in millinery, as opposed to when they occur in banks and convenience stores.

Stick ups are eye catching details on hats that hover above the hat's crown, the top part of a hat. They seemed expected in comedic character's hats, with the most iconic being a daisy shape on a stick above a flower pot shaped hat.

The story behind this particular late 1950's era stick up however is not so much one of comedy but rather one of pathos

(I wrote the story about this hat awhile ago. I still think about the owner from time to time. She was a nurse too. This post is my way of appreciating her during Nurses Week.)
This hat belonged to my next door neighbor, Mrs. Reba Daniels (may she rest in peace...) She was a heavy shapeless older widow when I first met her in 1984. Her home was a tiny two bedroom one bath affair in a small post WWII subdivision.

Our properties were divided by a 4 ft. high white picket fence. Naturally from time to time we would both be outside at the same time and spoke to each other just enough to be neighborly.

I remember our first conversation, which occurred shortly after we moved into our property. "We" at that time included my husband, our 5 year old daughter and 4 year old son, one brittany spaniel, one long haired tabby, and four caged rabbits.

Mrs. D. set her jaw, and looked up at me. She asked if we had a dog. I said yes. She said she didn't like dogs. She then asked if we had a cat. Again I said yes. She said she didn't like cats. She glanced at the far end of our yard, and asked if we had rabbits. I could hardly deny the four cages with four large white bunnies in repose. Yes, we had rabbits. She looked me in the eye and informed me she didn't like rabbits.

Then she asked if we had children.
Yes, we had children. Two. A girl and a boy.

I still remember the long look she gave me as she pressed her lips together, sealing in the obvious observation. I smiled and bid her good day, leaving her to her tired yard with dying grass and weed choked flower beds.

Little by little over the years I learned more about my neighbor. She had been a nurse, and raised a son. "Come met my baby boy" she once called over the fence, her arm wrapped around the waist of a bemused 60 year old man. Her face was glowing as he smiled at her, and helped her with some routine household maintenance.

Another time she noted my profusion of roses and wild flowers in bloom. "I always dreamed of the kind of garden I would have once I retired from nursing" she shared. "But when I finally did retire, I had arthritis in my knees and hands so bad, I couldn't do a thing". She looked at her one struggling ragged robin rose, shook her head, and worked her way slowly up the three steps leading to her kitchen door.

I wish I could say I offered to help her with her garden, but at that time in my own life it was all I could do to just keep up with our laundry, cooking and cleaning and car pooling.

The day finally came when Mrs. Daniel's son came to help her move. The little house was now just too much for her to manage. She was going into a retirement home. What few possessions she owned were to be stripped to the barest minimum, and the rest sold as best as they could be at a garage sale.

I walked across our drive way and on to hers, where a few card tables held the knickknacks and household items that she would no longer require. None of them looked like much to me. Inside the garage was a clothing rack with shapeless polyester church dresses, some crumpled low heeled shoes, and a hat.

This hat.

It was a deep shade of fuchsia, made of rich plush french velvet, which is nothing like the polyester velvets of today. The veil was knotted back with the ends tabbed in fuchsia satin, and each tab had a diamond spark in the center. And the stick up...dime sized diamonds that seemed to be watching both the hat and the surroundings with an energy as mesmerizing as a spotlight.

I gently picked it up, amazed at its saucy exuberance, and amused at the witty gesture the stick up produced. I had never seen anything like it. Noticing a mirror, I placed the hat upon my 1980's page boy styled hair and instantly was transformation from "Mom-and-Housewife" in jeans and tee shirt to flirty "Art Gallery and Cocktail Party Going Sister".

Mrs. Daniels stumped over to me.

"I made that hat", she said slowly, like someone recalling a dream. "I took a class, and made that hat. I used to make hats. That was a long time ago."

I wish I had asked her where she wore that hat. Was it made to match a long ago discarded suit or dress? Did she ever wear the veil untied, covering her face with a fuchsia blush, perhaps to conceal the rosy glow that was brought on by sipping a glass of champagne or red wine?

I will never know. Instead I went home and dug a few dollars from my purse, made my purchase, and returned home with the hat, a few memories, and a mystery.

It was a nice Mother's Day

With all the people that would normally be part of Mother's Day celebrations out of town, I had to settle for a phone call to my Mother and my daughter instead.
My San Diego grandkitties sent me a nice card though.

With Jeff and Rachel vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, we needed to visit and feed the in-town grands anyway, so I got a picture with them.
Cheeto is all grown up now.
How time flies...
I did a lot of gardening over the sunny weekend. A trip to the nursery was inspirational; a flat or two were purchased and other flats eyed closely. A cold front was expected this week; I'll wait a bit longer before buying more tender flowers.

Our next door neighbor dropped by with her little ones.
Tiggie and the Toddler played a slow game of "Follow the Patio Lion".
Tigs used to play this game with the toddler next door in Houston. Funny how he remembered how the game was played: just amble along, keeping a safe distance from the kid at all time. When the toddler stopped, so did Tigs.
Clearly he enjoys studying the little one as much as the little one enjoys studying him.
(Hart just split the scene as fast as possible...a grey blur was all that was to be seen of him!)
Later I headed back to Red Butte with the neighbor and her two little ones.
The oldest girl is 16 months old, the baby is seven weeks.
I had never attempted to photograph little children in motion before.
About seventy pictures were taken; most were pretty good, about ten were great, and two were of the caliber that I strive to obtain consistently.
No grandchildren that come without fur and paws in my future for now; I still have plenty of time to hone my photographic skills for when the day eventually comes.
Meanwhile, it was a blast to practice and pretend with a behatted borrowed wee one on Mothers Day 2010.

Monday, May 10, 2010

And you thought you were creative...

I've just spent a bit of time wrestling with myself about copyright infringement.
I've decided to be good and just post the links below which will take you to the pictures and articles instead of me "borrowing" the pictures of:
-Lamps made from pressed vegetables

-A wind powered knitting machine

-Porcelain foam dinner plates and cups

-Raffia covered storage units

-Campers that fit in shopping carts and can be towed by bikes. (Yes, I do want the bike one.)

And if I ever get a donkey, I am definitely wanting one of these things.

There are lots of other cool stuff to see from Milan 2010 design show. (Each of the above links have more things at the bottom of their pages.)
I can promise you this: These are all things that you probably never thought of before, probably don't need, but probably will make you say "Huh" and want to share them with someone else, just like I did with you.

Beet and leek lampshades.

PS: I'm LOLFOTF at this thing. Wouldn't a simple diaper bag be enough for all you need to change a baby?
Guess not.