Mum’s Hatbox

When I was a wee child I used to play with my mother’s hatbox, kept in the only storage closet we had, on the second-floor landing of our new home. She said it was something that belonged in every woman and girl’s luggage, something you did not travel without. It was a wonderful and beautiful piece of luggage, black with gold snap hinges for closure. Inside there was room for a few select hats, and small elastic-topped silk pockets for hatpins. It was round, and the cloth that covered it felt like a rippled velvet. Inside were three hats that she had kept through the years.

My favorite was a small black top-hat sort of thing, with a magnificent veil. The veil was black to match the hat, but there were rhinestone diamond-like jewels in place here and there on the netting. The veil itself was able to be lowered in stages, to whichever length was preferred. This was done by hooking the netting on miniature, tiny butterfly-jeweled pegs on either side of the hat. The hat was magical to me. To put it on was to be transformed, to be flown away to a different time, the capture of something ephemeral.

My mother had left me with instructions to be carried out upon her death. The hatbox was to be given to a niece who was in the garment trade, Chanel to be specific. Of course it suited her and was well met to her profession. I gave the hatbox with the only hat left inside, the little black one with a veil, to my brother to give to her.

Still, all these many years later, I long to see that hat, to put it on and pull down the veil, to be thrown into that space that is the metaphysical, transcendent. And to run my hands across that hatbox that every young lady would have among her luggage.

The hatbox that my sister-in-law threw away.




Currents of Change

Mother’s Day ended up being a Mother’s Week, the few days of writing became a frenzy, and last night was an emergency. The emergency was a friend’s mother, and at least now she’s in the hospital and settled a bit. It is, my mother would say, the end game. (And she meant that in good spirit, applying it to herself as well as others.)

And we lost Tom Wolfe. Who had to die before anyone saw him in anything other than a white suit.



So we breathe, sit, and listen to wind chimes.

Now the catching of breath can be done in different ways, while still the anchor of grief tugs beneath the surface, breaking through the current of the river as we tow it beneath ourselves.



Historic La Crosse

On Facebook today, spotted gems of familiar (well sort of) places. These were posted by The La Crosse Tribune.


Peter Thompson Photo City Square

This is the building that once was Barron’s, as called by locals. The E.R. Barron Co. department store was where my mother worked when I was in high school. My father or I would pick her up coming out of the side door way on the back left, next to the alley, on Friday nights. Now it is the setting for several small self-contained shops.