Why is it so hard to get rid of things that come to define us? Why is turning the page such a difficult thing to do?
I am, of course, speaking of the final end of my long-suffering and worn “birding hat”, that piece of fabric and plastic that has adorned my head on nearly every birding excursion I’ve been on for the last seven years – a true eternity for an article of clothing. There was nothing particularly special about this hat, a blue St. Louis Cardinals number – the model is called “The Franchise” – that not only sported a smart little birdy logo but also announced my personal MLB affiliation wherever I would go. I initially purchased the blue one because I figured wearing my bright red version in the field would be inappropriate. I first put it on in the fall of 2005 and barely ever took it off lo this near decade.
This hat has been nearly everywhere in North Carolina. It’s traveled to the Galapagos, to Costa Rica, to Guatemala. It’s been to Texas twice, to Florida, to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and New York and Wyoming and back to Missouri. This may seem silly, but in fact it became something of a security blanket here in North Carolina. A reminder of home, of Missouri, in this place where I’m a transplant like everyone else. It’s sheltered me in ran and sun and snow and on countless car rides and hikes and pelagics where it soaked in seawater such that the navy blue had long since faded to a slate gray, and then a pale gray, and then the bill began to fray and no amount of super glue or twine would keep this thing from completely falling apart on me. And now? Well, I realize that looking somewhat disheveled is a prerequisite for we youngish birders, but even I’m not inclined to look like a hobo. Plus, it sort of stank.
So it has been retired, but I’ve yet to find a hat that measures up.
For starters, I find my head lies in an awkward size between Medium and Large. I’m not sure how the fine folks in Cambodia made this hat different from all the others purportedly of the same size, but they did. Plus – and I don’t know how you people wear caps – but the looser fit allowed me to always arrange the bill so that the sun was out of my eyes. I was a master at minor adjustments and fits, sliding the side of the bill over in the morning and back to the other side in the evening. This likely sounds crazy, but this hat seemed custom made for this birder. It worked for me, which is why I’m hesitant just to buy a new one. Because it won’t ever be the same.
And now? Well, I’ve got a small stable full of ill-fitting hats – most too tight, all too new – that need some breaking in. I’ve been trying a few of them out over the past few weeks but none have been overwhelming favorites. Perhaps in time this UNC hat that has been the early front-runner will turn into the “new” hat. We’ll see, but it has none of the pizazz, none of the memories, none of the stench.
Seven years is enough, I suppose. And nothing lasts forever. Least of all cotton/poly blends.
Oh, and in case you’re really thinking this is odd, I also sort of felt this way about my birding shoes once upon a time. So maybe it’s just me.