A Divorce Gift to Myself

It all begins with the gift of a hat.

I am slowly, mindlessly wandering through store after store in a mall. For the first time in nine years, I have time to look around, quietly perusing a shiny piece of art, touching soft sweaters, taking time to imagine this new frame on my desk, or that “Carpe diem” sign over the window in the kitchen.

It is my first weekend after splitting with my husband, the first weekend my two children, ages eight and five, are somewhere where I have no authority, no input, no ability to see if they are eating healthily, or staying up too late, no calling or checking in.

And I am loving it.

Not sure I remember a time since becoming a mom that I have been released so clearly and totally from parental responsibility. I can shop. I can stop for a tea. If I want, I can sit in Barnes and Noble reading, like all those intellectual looking people I’ve seen as I rushed in to find a magazine or a baby shower gift.

Personal freedom. No expectations. No plans. No one to take care of.

I see the dusty-rose-colored, cashmere beret through the window of The Gap. It looks soft. I go into the store.

Yes, it is soft, both the fabric and the color so I pick it up. I am actually putting it on my head as a shyly look for a mirror.

“You aren’t the type of woman to wear a hat out, Kirsten,” I say to myself even as I like how it looks, coquettishly tipped diagonally across my forehead. It frames my face with a beautiful color, my blonde hair peeking out from interesting angles.

As I stare at myself, I am suddenly aware I no longer know what type of woman I am. I graduated from college, found a serious boyfriend 11 years ago who became my husband. I am now a 34-year-old mother getting a divorce.

“Maybe you ARE the type… maybe you’re a hat girl,” I say and at that moment I know I’m buying myself the hat, if even just because I’ve never had anything like it before – it isn’t a good hat for the snow; it won’t work in the rain; and it’ll smash my hair in a weird way.

I walk out of the store with it, feeling almost like it’s lingerie, wondering if I’ll ever get the guts up to wear it out.

A friend sets me up a few months later on my first “meet up” she calls it, with a friend of hers who’s visiting from Colorado. It’s a group dinner and this is the night I decide to test my “Am-I-a-hat-girl?” type of woman.

Most of the group has been skiing all week at Snowbird Resort. The guy I’m meeting from Colorado, Martin, is exhausted at dinner, trying to muster a smile here and there, a courtesy laugh when appropriate.

We all sit and enjoy dinner inside a warm restaurant, and I keep my hat on the entire meal, even later when we go upstairs to the bar to have a drink. I am committed to that dusky pink beret

Martin never truly wakes up that night, but I have fun with the group and am dropped off at my empty house still wearing my beret. As I remove the hat, I miss my kids.

My friends come by my house over the months with divorce gifts, mostly consisting of a bottle of wine and chocolate, but the best gift I receive is the one I gave myself, that once-worn hat. Of all things, it kickstarts something – a fearlessness, an independence, a bravery – that has been buried since I got married.

I learn later, as Martin and I begin a courtship that years later leads to marriage, that the dinner group had nicknamed me “Beret Chick.”

Never has a once worn hat served so many great purposes.

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