I bought it in Northampton, at the first alumnae weekend that I attended. It marked my first year out of college and I was not an "official" reunion class, but I had so many friends getting diplomas that year, that I wanted to see march, that I just couldn't stay away.

So my friends and I had an informal reunion of our own. We stayed at Amanda's place in Sunderland and descended upon the town in waves, staying up late, going out to dinner, generally being as whacky and wild as we had been all throughout college.

As I recalled, it had been hot and sunny on our own graduation day in 1996, so just to be prepared I picked up a broad-brimmed straw hat to shield my face from the sun.

I've used that hat at every graduation I've attended since then, and on a daily basis as soon as the heat starts to peak, here in the Washington D.C.-metro area.

I am, through genetics on both sides of the family, extremely fair-skinned and burn very easily. After reading one too many articles about the horrors of skin cancer, I decided to play it safe. I wear my hat every day from late May until late September.

It has become something of a fixture, a vestige of times past in many ways. A part of my outward persona, yet intrinsically me, just like my glasses.

Every year now I look forward to the ritual, of reaching into the closet, dusting it off and declaring happily to myself, "Hey, guess what, it's hat weather!"

5.19.99 | narrative | mail | 5.23.99