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January 14, 2014

On Seven Months Part 2: I Want My Hat Back

i-want-my-hat-backThings started disappearing a few weeks after Iris was born.

First was our picnic blanket, which is a strange thing to lose. Last seen when the baby was two weeks old, the afternoon we ate cheese and bread on the grass by Robarts Library while the baby slept in the stroller. The outing had been an exercise in normalcy, and one at which we succeeded marvellously. But when it came time for Harriet’s play school picnic a week and a half later, our picnic blanket–actually an king-size sheet with a green leaf print that I’d bought at Walmart for a dollar back when I still bought things at Walmart–was nowhere to be found. We ate our lunch that day on a table cloth. “It will turn up,” was the thing we said, because we always say this and often it’s true. But our picnic blanket never did. We soon replaced it with a waterproof outdoor mat that we bought with a gift certificate our friends had given us when Iris was born. It was an upgrade. The loss of our picnic blanket was mysterious, but not a tragedy.

In November, we lost Iris’s snowsuit. Well, not a snowsuit exactly, but this blue fleece suit with a  hood that was perfect for autumn, one that was worn and pilly because Harriet had worn it four years before. Iris had worn it to swimming lessons, but I’d carried her home without it under my coat because she was sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb her. She was warm enough. But we got home to find that the blue suit was nowhere, and though I enquired at the community centre’s Lost and Found a few times over the next week, it didn’t turn up there either. But then the season was changing, we had a real snowsuit waiting. The blue suit had been coming to the end of its life anyway.

You already know how in November, I also lost our passports. Mid-journey in Amsterdam airport, resulting in a missed flight, so much panic, plans for emergency visits to consulates in farflungdom. Passports did turn up, but only after airline staff had unpacked our baggage three times, and then finally we unpacked them once more under the instructions of the immigration police. Perhaps if we’d tried this technique with the first disappearance, we might have found the picnic blanket.

And then somehow I have lost my pink fleece sweater, one that is old and worn, so farewell, I suppose, but it is cold in my house, and moreover, the sweater wasn’t entirely frumpy. I thought maybe it had gotten mixed in with the three garbage bags of stuff we’d assembled to be donated to charity, but searches turned up nothing. This loss has left a sizeable hole in my already meagre wardrobe.

None of this makes any sense. I am meticulously organized. I have known to have fits of anxiety when Harriet’s puzzles are missing a piece and scour the house until we find it. For me, the definition of “laid-back” is when I put away her toy eggs without the full dozen in the plastic carton, and I always feel sort of proud of myself when this happens. I lost my quarter-teaspoon a few years ago, and this was such an odd occurrence that it stands out. I have been mis-measuring my salt ever since. It must have fallen down behind the cupboards.

This is why when the immigration police told me to unpack our bags just one more time, I protested. “Really,” I said. “They couldn’t be there. I never would have put them–” But there they were. How odd not to know one’s own mind, let alone one’s own bag. Since Iris arrived, it is as though the fabric of our daily life has been stretched so thin and enormous things keep falling through the fibres. The metaphor is simply too perfect, and sometimes I suspect I’ve walked into a short story plot. This kind of confusion is what happens when you read far more than you sleep.

On Sunday afternoon, I lost my hat. And then I kind of lost my mind, because I was just so tired of losing things. And it wasn’t like the blanket or the blue suit, things we could get along without, things with which I could follow my dictum that things are just things and not worth getting upset over. Because I love my hat. It is a red felted cloche with a fuchsia flower, a one-of-a-kind that I bought at a craft fair last winter. It cost $45, which is a lot for a hat, but it was a beautiful hat, and it covered my ears. I have a big head, so such hats are hard to come by.

I had been writing this blog post in my head for a few days before the hat actually got lost, and it had begun to seem really disturbing, like my life had taken on the blog post’s trajectory rather than the other way around.

With the loss of the hat, I had officially had enough. I am a fervent unbeliever in Mommy-Brain, which offends me first because it’s this self-perpetuated myth that motherhood makes us stupid, which does us no favours, and also because my brain has never been as sharp as its been since my girls were born, the world suddenly full of brilliant and surprising connections and I really do find the experience of being a mother absolutely inspiring like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. But yes, I am tired. And I keep losing things. I was imagining a place (beneath the floorboards, perhaps?) where all the missing things were gathered. It was the violation of the laws of physics that was my main concern with this troubling string of events, never mind Mommy Brain—how can an object simply disappear?

(We flirted with a hypothesis: Iris was the obvious suspect. Nothing had gone missing before she arrived in our household. What if Iris was a thief?)

Then we found my hat. I couldn’t believe it. The first time I retraced my steps, I’d come up with nothing, as with all the other missing things. It was all part of the same plot, and it was beginning to be infuriating, not to mention boring. But yes, the surprise twist. I present once again at another Lost and Found, and the attendant comes back with precisely what I am looking for held in his very hand. And suddenly it didn’t matter anymore that on the way to the Lost and Found, my purse strap had snapped in two and it was beginning to seem that my whole life was unravelling. Because it wasn’t. I had my hat back, and everything terrible seemed a little less inevitable after that.

We walked home and I didn’t even need my hat. The temperature was above zero, something spring-like in the air, and the sun was out. For the first time in a long time, we held hands without mittens, and our mittens were either tucked safely in our pockets or tied to our coat with string.

4 thoughts on “On Seven Months Part 2: I Want My Hat Back”

  1. I enjoyed reading this story. Thank you for your excellent posts, Kerry. “I want my hat back!” indeed. 🙂

  2. Carrie says:

    I’ve long believed “Mommy brain” is simple sleep-deprivation, and it’s ridiculous to label it anything else, not to mention offensive to imply that motherhood is somehow associated with a loss of brain power. Argh!

    I’m glad you found your hat!

  3. saleema says:

    I’m so happy you found your hat! That feels like a little miracle.

    I’ve gone through phases of losing things one after another (keys, wallet, buspass, jewelry), and it always seems to happen when I’m falling in love….so I’m not surprised to hear about this happening after Iris’s arrival. 🙂

  4. Rebecca says:

    This was lovely.
    I am forever losing things. But then again I’ve always been like that. I agree that the first few months after childbirth are perhaps my sharpest. But then I get tired and there are too many people with too many things to keep track of them all now. Glad you got your hat back.

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