Yes, I should be thankful for friends, family, health, etc. And I am. But this thing really deserves special gratitude.
Thanksgiving – a time for family, friends, turkey, football, turkey naps, giving thanks, getting stuck in traffic jams, recalling Thanksgivings past, binge-watching whatever you’ve been meaning to watch. When I was a kid, it was all-day Twilight Zone marathons. Talkie Tina still scares the daylights out of me.
So when the question comes around to what am I thankful for this year – I was pondering this as I stumbled around putting myself together this morning – my answer is simple. It’s a crocheted hat. Specifically, a gray hat with a pink sparkly main and tails and a rainbow horn. It was a gift from one of my partners last year.
It’s fantastic. I mean, fantastic in a magical, amazing, this thing is seriously magical way.
I’m middle-aged, although I look much younger. I’m small and plain. Put me in a lineup of “guys who work in offices and don’t have to wear ties” and I’ll blend right in (until I move or open my mouth, which my partners are fond of reminding me). But I digress.
I’m so used to wearing this that I forget it’s on.
Until a cop in a car next to mine looks over and starts laughing. Until I’m walking in a store and a little kid tugs mom’s hand and whispers, “Look at him!” and mom gives me an embarrassed nod and I smile at the kid. Until I’m in Home Depot and a clerk comes up to me and asks if he can take my pictures, because their corporate office likes stores to take pictures of customers (I am not making this up, although he might have been). Until a woman in line next to me in a bank asks, with some disdain, why I an wearing it and when I answer, “Because I love it,” she smiles.
I don’t realize it’s there until someone asks me where I got it and while I am telling them, I’m thinking about the person who asked me if I made it (those people are invariably crafters themselves). Or when there are a group of teenagers trying to take a sneaky picture with their cell phone, or the bolder souls who flat out ask if they can. Or in the moment, usually in crowded places, when suddenly people are slowing down a little and smiling. It’s just become part of me.
I’m grateful for these tiny interactions, that this hat can make people happy, maybe open up a little when they are feeling closed off from the world. I like to imagine that these are the pebbles that could cause a wave.
And I’m grateful for the larger interactions. The friendships that have come about as the result of the hat.
A local shop clerk who had been having a run of bad days and tackled me, a near stranger, with a hug and her story. We look for each other now to catch up and ask after one another when it’s been a while. Walls? Not with this thing.
The college kid at a local drug store who started off asking if he could take a picture for Facebook to show his friends, saying he was going to put it everywhere, generally trying to provoke a reaction. When he realized one was not going to happen, except for me to stop and smile, he started asking questions about where I got it, the woman who made it, and when I came in one time without it, he was genuinely disappointed and told me so, that seeing that hat made his night better. After that, it or it’s black-and-red companion always rode in my car until he moved away. If I came in without it and he was working, back out I went.
But the one that I am most grateful for, the connection the magical hat made happen, was a chance meeting in a grocery store parking lot. A woman asked me about it, could she take a picture (of course!), said her son would love it, that he is a Brony (guy who likes My Little Pony) and he had been getting teased about it, not that that had stopped him. She said her husband would love one, too. Trust me, in Alabama, that is not something you hear every day. We talked some more, me about my odd family, she about her recently-out-as-pansexual 11-year-old ballet loving baker boy, 9-year-old computer whiz, and seven-year-old Brony. She and her family had been part of Wedding Week here. I’m friends with some of her music student’s parents. We talked and talked and then her husband appeared and, unprompted, said he loved my hat and wanted one.
To understand why this is so important and why I believe that unicorns, even those made with a crochet hook to keep a guys’s head warm, make magic happen, I’m a former dancer who rarely meets anyone familiar with the dance world. I also rarely meet, in real life, dads who are totally ok with their sons not only being not-straight, but dressing up as a princess one day and in jeans and a t-shirt the next while doing ballet and baking and having a girl as a best friend. And meeting (in real life) moms who are tightly focused on the fight for justice and equality and seeing them live it out daily with kids all around them, that’s not common for me either.
And apparently for her, meeting strangers who readily accept her and her family is equally uncommon. Someone to whom she doesn’t have to explain pansexual and who doesn’t blink at his coming out at 11 or the fact that he dreams of bring a ballet dancer.
I guess the hat gave me away.
It’s also a magical mood enhancer. It’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood while wearing it, if for no other reason than when I am wearing it, I am a Pink Sparkle Rainbow Unicorn, with all of the responsibilities that come with the title.
And that I have that opportunity, the chance to make connections, even if it’s just making someone laugh a little or wonder what the heck that guy is doing or starting a conversation about why, even I never hear it – this is why I’m giving thanks for my hat…and the woman who made it happen.