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A Boy and His Hat

There are loyalties in life. I prefer a specific brand in ketchup, peanut butter and cigarettes, but I wouldn’t say no to another brand if that was all there were available. The same is not always true for little boys and their current favorite ball caps. ┬áJunior has to be told sometimes to remove his hat in the house, at the table and before sleeping. It resides on his night stand for easy access and is always on his head throughout the summer. He sweats in it, wears it for luck and status, and to keep the sun out of his eyes. Basically, it tells his friends everything they need to know about his current favorite sports team. Granted, the hat changes from season to season or year to year as the sporting seasons come and go. Junior’s team doesn’t have to be a winner, it just has to be his.┬áSteve sometimes wears a ball cap but he tends to wear free ones he gets from work or golfing events. He wears a hat when it is hot or he is working outside. I guess they both don’t mind that they wear previously sweated-in caps. Boys are icky that way.

The lake has some inherent dangers which we discuss with the kids on the way up. First aid kits are always packed so that I don’t use up June’s supply and what to do if you see a big creature is always a hot topic. I refuse to answer questions about elephants and tigers because I just can’t see that happening. The danger I didn’t think about was the wind on the lake. It was very blustery when we left the dock for our boat ride and picnic. The cooler was packed, extra towels and clothes were in a duffel bag and the kids had life preservers on. Sadly, Junior’s hat was not glued to his head. I heard him yell and looked over in time to see it blow off his head and disappear into the water. Oh no! His favorite hat sunk faster than the Titanic. There was no use in stopping to even attempt to find it. Junior’s face looked crushed. He sat back in his seat and bit his lip a little. This is one boy who needs a hat. Daisy sat next to him but he pulled away from her and folded his arms and looked broken.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is alleviating disappointment for children. Life is somehow unfair at the worst times. When we slowed down at the gas dock, I told Steve what happened. He told me that Junior would get over it. When we dock for gas everybody has a job. I usually jump off as soon as Steve gets next to the dock to pull the ropes up to the cleats. The kids like to get off and run up the long dock to the store to say hello to the dock master, Sam. But Junior didn’t want to get off the boat and sat there as Steve started to pump the gas. I followed Daisy up to the store to see what she was up to. In the store, Daisy was busy emptying out her little pink purse, spilling a couple of crumpled bills along with change all over the counter. Sam was counting her money and pulled $2.50 off to the side. Sam told Daisy to pick out whatever hat she wanted off of the display. She smartly overlooked the hats with fish and pointed to a dark blue hat emblazoned with a tiger on it and Sam pulled it down for her. Daisy scooped up the rest of her loot and ran out to the boat, presumably to give it to her brother. It was a sweet idea but I wasn’t sure how open little Stevie was yet to a new hat so soon after his big loss. As I signed for the gas, Sam handed me back Daisy’s $2.50. He told me that he couldn’t resist Daisy’s desire to make her brother happy again.

When I got back to the boat, the kids and Steve were ready to go but the hat wasn’t on Junior’s head. Daisy didn’t seem upset by this so I didn’t say anything. We left for our boat ride, stopping at a favorite little island for a picnic on the beach. It was really hot now that the wind had stopped and the kids ran in and out of the water while we sat on the blanket. We all played a game of water tag that Junior invented. The rules include the fact that if you leave the water, you are automatically “It.” We stayed in the water a long time and I never got tagged.

As we headed back, Steve asked Junior if he wanted to drive the boat. Daisy and I settled into our seats and held on in case there were rough waves ahead. We have experienced Junior’s driving previously. Happily, Junior’s driving had improved since last year. He stood with his shirt off holding onto the wheel with his little tanned muscles, only veering off as he tried to shade his eyes from the afternoon sun with one hand and then the other. Eventually, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his new cap. His two-handed steering improved the course and he smiled.

When we returned to the dock at the house, Daisy and I started to gather our belongings. When we got close to the dock, Junior hopped out first and pulled the ropes to tie the boat up – a first for him. He held Daisy’s hand as she got off the boat and they walked up the dock together. There will be disappointments in life for sure. But it turns out that our kids are loyal to each other’s brand.

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