stack of hats

Easter Sunday, 1956.
Lace-trimmed anklets
tucked into Mary Janes.
White gloves. Flowered voile dress.
Mother bobby-pins a circle of lace
over my bangs and pony-tail.

I never outgrew the chapel cap
until the church did.
Abiding by popular opinion.
Avoiding a response.

Trying on hats in a store on lunch break, 1978.
A co-worker thinks the wide-brimmed
low-crowned straw with its long
Alice-in-Wonderland ribbon
suits me.

She's surprised when I choose
a black beret.
Ignoring her response.

Another day coming to work
huddling in the cold,
a scarf over my head, I hear her say,
"You look like an old woman!"

But I'm warm,
if not feeling any warmth
toward her.
Not wanting a response.

Today I cock my straw fedora
with the bluejay feather in the band
and strut.
I want to wow the crowd.
I tickle grandchildren,
tease friends.
I become the center of my universe.
Not needing a response.

Some days the red wide-brim just won't do.
I can't carry off a flashy hat
shrinking from crowds,
walking slowly and quietly
so no one notices me
shading my face with a soft grey felt.
Repelling a response.

"I like your hat!"
Almost always from a person
not wearing one.
People tend to wear a hat
only to cover bad hair — or no hair.
Hats tend to make bad hair.
Heeding an anticipated response.

A ball cap keeps
hair out of my eyes, keeps
the sunspot on my nose from darkening,
the squint lines from deepening,
discourages a few mosquitoes,
gives me a tan line.
If I'm inadvertently eliciting a response,
nobody mentions it.

No hat these days,
since bloodwork showed
low Vitamin D.
Angling for a response
from the doctor.