Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Desperately Seeking Hats

My lovely online friend Edward O mentioned a long time ago he wanted a story on hats. Well, better late than never says I. So here it is, as a thankyou for all the lovely free songs!



Desperately Seeking Hats

My friend Tina T is something of a hat guru, having appeared in the opening credits of her finest TV role modelling a hat with a Co-star, but hats never really played a big part in my life, beanies yes, leading to an amusing Natalie Imbruglia anecdote, but I just don’t look good in a hat. It’s a bad thing for someone so in the sun as me, but I just really hate them. I got off lightly compared to my cousin Travis, who had thick horn rimmed glasses, and as such was nicknamed “Jonathan King” in less difficult times for the one time pop svengali, but it has left a scar on him so deep he can never truly wear a baseball cap.

My surfing teacher was an old hippy called Joe, who used to sit me down and spin me the most outrageous tales of how he had taught Dennis Hopper how to surf off the breaks in Malibu, but Dennis and he fell out one day over the best flavoured milk in the land. He was clearly lying, you could tell, by the fact that he clearly was making details up as he went. That was fine though, because as he got to the climax of the story, he would start jumping up and down from one foot to the other, and snarl and start doing voices, and it was very funny. Then, we’d sit and learn a little bit more about surfing, and he was proud of my progress, informing my mother about every detail, while she chewed idly on an Eskimo Pie and shivered in the cold before we all packed into the Torana for the drive home.

Surfing is a big part of my life, and my Mum was keen to fund my progress through the learning progress, but she would do so sometimes by buying the most ridiculous surf knock offs known to mankind from the local op shop. An op shop, for those who don’t know, is one of those second hand stores people go into from time to time to buy humorous items for retro nights, and it’s full of junk. My Mum, again with her hippy ethics, used to go in and buy me horrendous things like lime wetsuits, or big board shorts once worn by Big Bertha of Ballarat, that were 13 sizes too big. I would thank her for her trouble, then fold them into the back of the drawer, until she had a clean out, and gave them to my cousin James, for whom the cycle would start again. Once, she bought me a black tracksuit with a green stripe that joined up from top to pants. Suffice to say it was very neatly folded away.

One day, I was mulling over the two star review the new Collette album had received, when my Mum came bounding in from the op shop. She was chewing idly, and threw her bag on the couch. I looked up casually in time to see my beloved Mother sitting in a top hat, a black top hat with orange trim, and a big pink ribbon tied around it. It didn’t go well with her late 80s sparkly top and spangle pants, but she was smiling so serenely, I figured she perhaps didn’t realise she had it on. She picked up a copy of the Woman’s Weekly, and flicked through it, while I sat transfixed.

“Y, can you get your dear old Mum a Tim Tam?” she said, pondering the latest Charles and Di story. I thought I might have been hallucinating, through eating too much Milo out of a tin. She had a lovely turn of phrase my Mum, often saying “why keep a dog and bark yourself?” whenever I complained about fetching something for her. She serenely smiled as she munched thoughtfully on her chocolate biscuit treat. Joe, meanwhile, had entered the room, sat down on a beanbag, and turned on Countdown revolution, barely glancing in my mother’s direction. I began to ponder my options, switching between wondering why my Mother had decided to embrace the world of top hat magic, and my ongoing concern at anti Collette sentiment. In the end, I had to, as they would say, “go there”.

“Where’s the rabbit hiding?” I said, in my best stroppy voice.

“What rabbit?” said my Mum, taking a giant bite and devouring the Tim Tam in one.

“The rabbit inside your TOP HAT!” I said, tilting my head to the side and pouting.

“Top hat? I’m not wearing a top hat dear,” said Mum, throwing her magazine down and looking at me strangely. “Are you sure you are feeling OK Y?”

“Joe, what’s going on?” I said, for if someone could set my mother straight, it would be salt of the earth, honest as the day is long Joe.

“She’s not wearing a top hat” he said, transfixed as he flipped over to Home and Away, to see what Bobby was up to.

I got up, lifted the top hat from my Mums head, and held it in front of her.

“THIS TOP HAT!” I said, moving it back and forth in front of her eyeline.

“You’ve lost me, have you got a fever?” said my Mum, idly. “Maybe we shouldn’t go surf…hey, Frank, you bastard!” said Joe, suddenly going through his angry gears.

I put the top hat on my head and then took it off. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!” I screamed, with as much self-righteousness as I could muster. “It’s like when your cousin turned off the imaginary TV Y, there’s nothing there, don’t get so stroppy!” said Mum. And she smiled her best sweet motherly smile of pity, before suddenly cracking up laughing.

“Ha…got you worried!” she said. Joe turned around smiling, and then he too went into hysterics. “Made you think your old Mum had gone mad didn’t we?” he said, and there they were, frozen together in time, sharing an old persons sense of humour that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t understand. I stood, shaking my head, and then I realised that there was no way out. They were milking a moment for all it was worth, something really awful, a terrible, unfunny joke to be honest, but something they had worked on together, and something about the hope in their eyes, it really got to me. I couldn’t bring myself to strop off, berate them for their stupidity. I copped it on the chin.

“Yeah,” I said, mustering a weak fake laugh, “alright, you got me” I said, rolling my eyes in a “what am I like” kind of fashion, before sitting down and going back to my magazine.

Sometimes, it’s OK to give people their moment. For the next few years, my Mother would regale people at Christmas parties with her hilarious joke, and they would smile and laugh, or they would roll their eyes and shake their head, but it was worth the suffering and the mild mockery, because it’s OK to be the butt of a joke sometimes, no matter who awful it is, if it’s done without malice or cruelty. My Mum was and is incapable of either, and I love her, for all her stupid jokes and dumb ideas. It made her happy, and everyone is entitled to feel happy sometimes, especially if you let them think they are hilarious.

I still hate hats though. And always will. This is for you Travis.

Alyson

4 Comments:

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