by Melanie Feeney
It was yellow felted wool with a brown trim. An approximation of a cloche. My parents had bought it in Paris, so it carried a glamor that made it all the more special. I wore it every day during my first few years of university.
Dublin in the 1990s was not a glamorous place. It was dreary, gray, and we had yet to see signs of the “Celtic tiger.” I was in college and had an hour-long bus trip each way. My hat was so warm and cozy. It covered my ears and my forehead and because it was felted, it kept anything but the heaviest of rain out. It defeated that misty rain that seems to be a daily occurrence in Ireland, all year round.
It was soft and warm. I could roll it up in my college bag, and it would magically regain its shape when I put it on to go home. It was my constant companion and added the prettiness I needed, as I have always been someone who likes a pretty flourish — perfume, a scarf, red lipstick, or a hat.
In 1992 I went to Italy and brought my hat of course. Bologna was freezing that January, and I was so grateful for my hat and wool coat. By the end of my semester abroad, it was a well-traveled hat: Venice, Florence, Pisa, Livorno. I wore it on the beach in Livorno with the winter waves crashing nearby. I wore it on a freezing cold day when we went to Venice the day before Martedi Grasso and the cold fog was rolling off the canals.
It finally fell apart in my third year of university, and I have never managed to find a replacement that I loved quite as much.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This picture was the closest approximation I could find to what my hat was like — mine was gray and yellow.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As soon as I read about this call for submissionS, I knew I wanted to write about my Parisian hat. The 300-word count made it seem less daunting, although once I began to write, I suddenly felt the need for 1000 words. I could have said so much more about that hat. How much I loved it, how pretty I felt in it on freezing winter mornings. How it was admired by so many of my Italian friends, making me feel very sophisticated. I focused on those early years because wearing a nice hat was not that common in Ireland, least of all by college students. We were a practical bunch in our waxed jackets and Doc Martins, jeans and oversized woolly sweaters. Glamour was in short supply and felt unnecessary as we discussed Sartre and James Joyce, drinking black coffee or Guinness. I am only 5’1’’ and I was easily spotted in a crowd thanks to my hat. Once I focused on the hat, it didn’t take much for my piece to write itself,and I was instantly transported back to those halcyon days in college.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Feeney has lived in Utah for the last 18 years and is originally from Dublin, Ireland. She is a project manager for an IT consulting company and loves to write in her spare time. She has written many novels, poems, and essays, although she has yet to find the courage to put them out for public consumption. She is currently working on a memoir about her battle with breast cancer.
AUTHOR PHOTO: Melanie Feeney, Salem Pond, Utah (November 2016).