Mama and her siblings, all seven of them, loved messing with people more than breathing. Those that inherited the Bob Hope, ski slope nose seemed to excel at it. But those with the Wilson noses were close seconds in that talent. Uncle LW could pull out his wallet in a restaurant and count his five one-dollar bills in a way that made you think he had a hundred bucks.
Mama must have forgotten that the day her brother, Cordon, enlisted her help to buy a hat for Granddaddy. Those were the days when a man rarely went out without one of those Sinatra-style hats. Cordon and Mama knew just where to go to shop. More importantly, they knew Granddaddy’s hat size.
Mama and Cordon walked to the corner and caught the city bus directly to Wright’s Men Store. They sold the best hats in town except maybe for the milliner. Wright’s was just fine for most folks.
They looked over the season’s display and picked the style and color Granddaddy wanted. That’s when the trouble started. Cordon made his move, calling the shop assistant over to help finalize the purchase.
The thing was that Cordon’s hat size was about two sizes smaller than Granddaddy’s. But he didn’t tell the salesmen that and shushed Mama when she tried to intervene. Pulling the hat down over his eyes and ears as low as possible, Cordon said, “I like this one. Annie, what do you think?”
By that time, Mama was hiding behind clothing racks as far as possible from the messing. The store assistant tried valiantly to get Cordon to try on a hat that would fit him. But Cordon didn’t budge. He insisted that the hat was just right.
Mama’s family’s had an uncanny ability to tell just about anyone anything with a face as straight as someone in the public defender’s office. It’s amazing that we haven’t needed their services.
Yes, I said we. Those talents run strong and deep in our Scotch-Irish blood. My husband, after almost thirty years of marriage, swears he still can’t tell when I’m prevaricating. That’s just a fancy way of saying pulling his leg. (That ability came in awfully handy when I was teaching. I had a field day with my class every April 1. I was the queen of April Fool’s Day until my nephew overthrew the throne last year. My older brother taught him well.)
Back to Wright’s fine men’s store, the assistant and even the owner finally gave up on reasoning with Cordon. He proudly made his purchase. The hat still firmly down on his nose, he strutted out of the store, calling loudly, “Has anyone seen my sister? A short redhead? She was right here.”
That was one long bus ride back to Worth Street.
Freelance writer and educator Jean Sanders Shumaker is a native Tarheel, living under Carolina blue skies and the towering Rocky Mountains.