The Karen Files, pt. 9

Another in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the life of our mother:

Some years ago, our father underwent heart surgery. We flew down from NYC to OKC for a few days, to spend some time with Dad before the surgery and to be with him for two or three days after.

He was already in the hospital in preparation for the surgery when we arrived, so there wasn’t much to do but shoot the breeze. With the surgery just 36 hours away or so and the unaddressed but undeniable possibility hanging in the air that these might be our last conversations (they weren’t, thank heaven—he came through the surgery with flying colors), we spent a lot of time reminiscing, talking about his childhood and youth.

We were already vintage-clothing buffs by then (though we’d not yet started wearing hats, which we do with regularity now), and it occurred to us that we’d never seen Dad in a hat. Did he ever wear them? Was he excited, when he became a young man, that it meant he got to start sporting a fedora?

No, he said, he and his crowd didn’t often wear hats. He owned one or two over the years, but he’d never worn them much.

Hi-res view

But when we sorted through the boxes and boxes of family photographs upon Mom’s passing in April, we came across a pair of photos of Dad in a hat (in one, Mom’s wearing a scarf, which we have only the vaguest memories of her ever doing, and in the other, she’s wearing white gloves, which we don’t ever recall seeing).

The first one dates to the early sixties, we’re guessing—Mom’s gone blond, and they’re standing in front of the house we lived in till 1964.

We like that Dad looks like kind of hipster-y in this shot—he’s got the stingy-brimmed fedora so popular today (with a higher crown than one tends to see today, and with what looks to be a center dent on the top of the crown, with no indentations in the front of the crown—hey, hat wearers notice these things!). He’s also got the David Byrne-esque closed top button (though we’re probably dating ourselves by mentioning Byrne; his days as an arbiter of hip are probably long past).

Mom looks pretty sharp, too. Healthy and happy and vital. This photo makes us smile (and not only because it confirms that Dad did occasionally wear a fedora).

Hi-res view

The second photo’s from a few years later. Mom and Dad have had a new home built (we resided there from 1964 through 1974), and it’s kind of modern and space-age-y—an angular structure with towering wrought-iron gates that led through an entryway into a square courtyard around which the house was built. It so stood out in that surburban neighborhood that our grade school pals were convinced that we were wealthy (we were not).

In this photo, taken in the aforementioned courtyard, Dad could be wearing the same chapeau as in the earlier photo, but we suspect it’s a different one (not drastically different in style, though), and, as we mentioned above, Mom’s wearing gloves, which pleases us but also surprises us—we don’t remember her ever doing so. We suspect Mom and Dad are on their way to church (perhaps it’s Easter morning, which might explain the corsage). Here, Dad looks much more Mad Men-esque than in the previous photo, a young Don Draper (only without the philandering).

So it’s nice to know that, in wearing fedoras, we’re carrying on a minor family tradition. Ours sport a wider brim than did Dad’s, but that’s a mere detail.