Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Has a Hat!

As many of you know, recently my family and I went camping for a much needed holiday. Since this would mean potential prolonged exposure in the sun, we had to take as many precautions as possible. Although as of late I have been quite pale (that would be The Schedule and not seeing the light of day for a couple of years), generally I tan easily. I can thank my Heinz 57 heritage for that. My husband and son, however... well, they are a little more high maintanence.

Quinn would have fit in nicely in Louis XIV's time as he is the type of fair skinned blonde that is almost blue. Many times I have reassured concerned adults that dark marks here and there are not the result of some misfortune, but are in fact veins. Sean, on the other hand, is... a redhead. These people cannot go out-of-doors without becoming entirely covered in freckles (which, to most is only slightly preferable to being covered in bees) or spontaneously bursting into flame. With Sean we don't need sunscreen, we need an asbestos suit; I feared Quinn would take after his father. While stuffing the aforementioned Ion full with gear, we did not neglect to pack THE umbrella for use on the beach.

Over the last decade, (and especially now that I've made the camping trip pics public), many of you have asked about THE umbrella.... As promised, here is how it came to be with us.

Sean and I were married on Hallowe'en in 1997, quite informally and very spur of the moment. We took a few days off for our honeymoon and went to Niagara Falls... in November. It was either raining or threatening to rain the entire time we were there (and you get wet right by the falls anyway). It wasn't so bad really, as it was still warmish most of the time and I made do with a sweater. Then it got cold. Very cold. There were several moments where I cursed myself for not packing an umbrella... or a rain hat, rubber boots, a giant Glad garbage bag... anything practical at all, really. What I did pack was my suede coat, which was threatening to turn into a giant, black, wet dog-smelling mess. We had been watching tourists walk around all week with these really cheap tacky red and white Canada umbrellas near the falls (and giggling to ourselves). Now, in a fit of desperation and with vague hopes of saving my coat, I considered buying one.

As I looked at the handles sticking out of a can in a gift shop, I shuddered to myself. I hate spending money when I don't have to, especially on cheap junk that I will never use again. I also winced at how we had been making fun of these ugly things our entire stay and now I found myself faced with purchasing one. I chose one with a wooden handle which was slightly more expensive (I think it was a dollar more). My rationale was that the wooden handle made it slightly more dignified and I might stand a chance of using it again, even if it was only at a soggy Canada Day celebration some time in the oh-so-distant-who-do-I-think-I'm-kidding-never future. At least this is what I explained to Sean's raised eyebrow. I hung my head and headed for the cash. We paid for our new umbrella and spent another $4 on two crappy hot chocolates and left the store.

I stood under the awning of the shop and popped open my new prize. My jaw dropped mid-sentence and my eyes bugged out as I looked at what I had just unleashed.

It was a hat.

My umbrella was a hat.

Tourists were giggling at ME! At my HAT!

I was holding a giant ball cap-shaped, red and white, maple leaf emblazoned, honest to goodness patriotic Canadian nightmare that was too tacky to even crawl underneath to die.

"Oh!" I think I managed to squeak out as a guffaw burst out of Sean. Tears were streaming out of his eyes as he struggled to compose himself after seeing the look of abject horror I'm sure was on my face. Brown steaming puddles formed on the lids the $4 crappy hot chocolates and threatened to spill over as he shook with his attempt to control himself. "Do-don't worry," he finally managed to get out "no one is really looking anyway".

As we walked along the cobblestones it became very obvious that he was wrong. People weren't just looking, they were staring. Children were pointing. I was mortified. I took a couple more steps, drank some more of my crappy hot chocolate, lit up a smoke and tried to convince myself I no longer cared. I did such a good job of convincing myself that I actually started to skip at one point and stare back. We headed back to the hotel and hit the bar. Then I truly no longer cared.

THE Umbrella, 1997
[Scanned from bad LoMo... had to take it to B&W.]
Suffice to say, I was in "no longer care" mode.

THE Umbrella has lived with us with what was at first a begrudging truce and is now a sense of acceptance. There have been rainy mornings where for one heart-stopping minute I've thought that I'd need to take it to work, but I have always found an alternative and left it in the closet. It's true calling, it seems, is as a beach/sun umbrella. Perhaps it is the ready availability of alcohol or perhaps the general bonhomie at these things, I'm not sure, but thus far it has lived out its life going from one family picnic or outing to another.

That's how THE umbrella came to be and how it ended up at MacGregor Point. It is almost eleven years later and the damn thing is still going strong.

I Has a Hat!
I has an hat!As you can see, it's natural to hold it and want to scream.