Sunday, July 31, 2011
Ochre, Red, Black, Blue and White are this post's colors
My parents put me in a kindergarten that operated on the ground floor of a brownstone townhouse that required all its little charges (male variety) to arrive, leave, and go out to recess in the garden/yard behind the building wearing a little Eaton Cap (roughly like the casquette, below left). I always felt claustrophobic having my head enclosed, as well as too hot. But the worst thing was that my parents were determined that I must not grow up with my ears sticking out, to assure this didn't happen, whenever I had the cap on they would make sure the top of my ears were tucked under the edge of the hat.
This arrangement made the claustrophobia worse and it hurt since the caps were made to fit snugly. Worse, my ears would get irritated, fill up with blood and be very hot. I think my dislike of hats dates without question to those damned Eton Caps.
Loss of a cap to Kenny's strong right arm throw was a very serious business because the woman next door hated having a kindergarten next to her house and refused any plea for return of the caps. I don't know whether they went into the garbage or were donated to the Salvation Army or sat on her mantelpiece with pins stuck in them, but they most certainly were never returned to the kindergarten. The day inevitably came when I was the little boy beginning to slide; Kenny ripped the cap off my head and tossed it over the fence.
Some sort of politics I never could figure out now went into action. I went to one of the teachers, explained what happened and was told that nothing could be done and that there would be no punishment for Kenny. I was outraged and went home that day scared because my parents had impressed on me that my kindergarten clothes were expensive and I had to take care of them. Well surprise, there were no consequences when I explained the situation; my mother opened a drawer in which there were at least two, maybe three, matching caps and just told me to be as careful as I could. From then on I made sure to go down the slide with my left hand firmly holding the cap on my head. But I was also planning revenge.
Kenny rarely went down the slide, but one day when some of the children had gone back inside a bit early, I saw him head for the ladder. He never saw me move into position behind him and then spring up at precisely the right moment. One of the two teachers saw what was about to happen and called out a warning, "Kenny, your hat!" -- a warning she had never given to any of the other boys in the school. But before she could get all the words out, the cap was sailing over the fence where the woman in her garden was scowling at me. I didn't care.
I didn't care, because Kenny was holding onto the teacher's skirt wailing at the top of his lungs, a bully in defeat, unable to take what he had given others. The teacher was consoling him, stroking his head and talking to him softly, as if he enjoyed some special status and protection which I never understood. But I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
And from that day, Kenny never sent another hat over the fence.
I went looking for pinking shears a couple of months ago and couldn't find them anywhere!
As for hats, I do not wear them, but I've always wanted a boater - thanks completely to a picture of my dandy great-grandfather who was photographed (I think) on his wedding day wearing one. :)