It’s dark now, at 5:30 in the afternoon, and I pull on my black, wool hat as I walk out the door to pick Lily up from ballet class. The edge of the hat touches my bare forehead, and I reach my hand up to scratch. My hair is tucked behind my ears, peeking out from under my hat. It’s cold tonight, and I pull on my gloves. It hasn’t been so long ago that I wore a different black wool hat, with a brim and a black ribbon around it. But it wasn’t so cold, and my unprotected scalp itched all the way around. It was fall, and school had begun. Students said, “It’s not fair! You get to wear a hat in school and we can’t!” The seven-year-olds in my second grade class knew the truth, that cancer (or rather the chemo) had caused my hair to fall out. But I had almost broken down and cried while confessing the reason for the hat. So I never explained to other students. I was too afraid that I would cry. The old adage is “Never let them see you smile until after Thanksgiving.” A teacher crying? Over a hat? I smiled and waved the questions away.
As my hair grew back, my colleagues said they’d miss my hat. I was so cute in my hat. Keep wearing it, they said. I liked my hat. It served its purpose well, hiding my hairless head from little eyes and keeping cold drafts at bay. But I never wore that black, wool hat again.