Mom wasn’t the only one in the family who, even though she loved us much, had set us up for ridicule at the hands of our peers. Dad actually beat her to the punch. Not long after arriving in Missouri, Dad approached Timmy and me with a new gift he had purchased.
“Boys, I bought you these winter hats. The temperatures get pretty cold here in comparison to California, so I decided you could wear these. They will keep your head and ears toasty. You know that most of the heat you lose from your body exits through your fingers, toes, and head.”
Dad was always teaching us new things, and I appreciated the physical science lesson, but when he handed us our new hats, my jaw dropped. If I described them as Russian winter hats, I think you would get the picture. The outside was made of leather, and the inside was lined with fur. A front flap was snapped to the forehead portion of the hat, and there were two flaps designed to cover the ears. When the flaps weren’t covering the ears, they could be snapped to the top of the hat.
Thinking that was the end of it and that these new hats could be thrown in a drawer and never see the light of day, Timmy and I thanked Dad and started to walk away.
“Well, try them on.” Dad seemed excited to show us how the hats worked; the various snaps and multiple ways they could be worn. Finally satisfied, he walked out of our room. Timmy and I looked at each other, and I said, “I’m not wearing that hat.”
Timmy wasn’t sure and asked, “What if Daddy finds out?”
Again, being cocksure, I replied, “How is he ever going to know?”
On the way to school the next morning, the temperature in single digits, my new Russian winter hat was tucked snugly inside my coat pocket. Out of nowhere, I felt a car approaching behind me and heard these words, “Ronnie, put your hat on.” I was at a loss for words, shocked, but at the same time wondering, Why isn’t he at work, and how did he know I wouldn’t be wearing my new hat?
Dad had underestimated the heat-holding ability of my new Russian hat, with Southern Missouri not quite as frigid as the tundra of Siberia. As I entered the school with sweat dripping down my sideburns, one of my friends remarked, “Nice hat, Ronnie.” My retort, being the only one I could think of on short notice was, “It’s warm.”
I kept it on, for the time being. Eventually, the hat “accidentally” became lost or destroyed or stolen; I’m not sure which. I suppose I was a typical boy my age, who was more concerned with how I looked than keeping warm. I’ve noticed the phenomenon exists to this day; I am amazed at the teens I’ve seen walking in mid-winter wearing only a t-shirt, arms folded across their chests, bowed at the waist against the frigid air, and a coat nowhere in sight. It seems that some human traits cross all generational boundaries.
Always a Little Heathen can be found on Amazon here.