Many years ago Mike and I were having lunch at a local restaurant here in Kona when a bevy of ladies filed in all dressed up in purple dresses and big red hats. I stared, mouth agape, in utter astonishment and fascination. What were they doing coming out dressed like that? It was the first time I’d seen the Red Hatters and I was instantly enamored of this group of adorable, vivacious, giggling ladies. I became determined to join them some day, when I was old enough, but haven’t thought about it much since.
One evening this past December I was working at the little dress shop where I spend a couple of days a week now, when a tall, striking woman strode in wearing a sparkling purple evening dress and a bright red hat fancy enough for the Kentucky Derby. I mean wow it was huge!! And so was her personality. She wore it all with a feisty, bright attitude of I do what I want
and seemed like she was having the time of her life. She was on her way to dinner nearby and needed a place to change into a big red M&M costume she would put on for members’ birthday celebrations. Of course, she could use our shop to get ready until it was time to go surprise them.
I immediately knew she was a Red Hatter (I mean, duh) and remarked how I’d always looked forward to joining such a group when I passed the required age. Of course she readily invited me to join as a Pink Hatter until then. So this past Saturday I attended my first Red Hat Society luncheon with about 25 ladies from all over the island. Funny thing, a friend had just randomly gifted me an adorable pink hat she had crocheted last year, with no thought of this group whatsoever entering either of our minds.
I mentioned that I had done this to a few friends who stifled giggles that I would do such a thing. But there is some part of me, I guess, that was drawn to it…and I couldn’t ignore the random series of events that led me there. This group was filled with so many different, wonderful characters, many drinking wine and cocktails, laughing and sharing stories. Some groups do fundraising too I know, but the primary focus is socializing and having fun.
The Queen, the woman who I met initially in the shop, sat next to me and during the course of the meal said something I won’t forget. She said the one thing she knows is that one day she is going to die, and that there are so many things we must deal with while we are here that aren’t fun…so she is determined to make room for fun and frivolity whenever she can. I wrote last week about how Mike’s death had brought the notion of my own mortality into clearer view. So I could relate to this very much, and I sat there with my glass of wine, delighting in the personalities and stories around me.
I was actually surprised that none of the ladies at my table were widows (I seem to meet so many of them these days) though I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone, of course. I did flash on a little jealousy that some of them had been with their husbands 20-30 years or more. But - I did enjoy myself, and there was some sense of comfort, or relief perhaps, by feeling included and befriended by these confident and joyful ladies who so clearly treasured this group, and each other. Being widowed in middle age has made me hyper-sensitive to the idea of getting older but maybe it wasn’t going to be all that bad. I couldn’t help but think how tickled Mike would have been that I’d done this. I could almost sense him smiling at me. I am already looking forward to the next gathering in February for Mardi Gras.
Afterwards as I was walking to my car in my own colorful costume bordering on the ridiculous I wished so much to have been able to tell Mike about it and laugh with him. And I couldn’t help but wonder at the strangeness of my life. How unpredictable it all is. And the idea that our human condition is so filled with the commonality of pain, grief, and tragedy…but that we also share the amazing and beautiful capacity for love, friendship, and laughter.
Thank goodness. When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…