My Mother’s Hats


Michelle Lerner



My mother’s hats sit in boxes on the shelf

above the dresses and the coats

in her closet.

Every year on Rosh Hashanah

she would climb the stepping stool and take them down,

the blue hat in the round box

the black one in the square box

the gray hat with the buckle

on its band.

We would try them on, her and me,

and match them to our dresses,

the dresses that we picked so carefully

to look our best for shul.

This is what I thought

of Rosh Hashanah as a child:

the day of hats.

When we would get to synagogue,

we’d gawk

as the women walked the aisles

trailing fur coats and Gucci bags,

on every head a hat.



I don’t think that I have worn a hat

in twenty years,

though I have peeked at the boxes

on the shelf

when visiting my mother.

She never goes to shul anymore

or has a reason to get them down.

My mother visited me this year

on Rosh Hashanah

and we went to shul together,

to my shul

my new synagogue

the first that I have joined as an adult.

I wore plain black pants and a button-down shirt,

and my mother wore slacks and a sweater.

There was not a hat, or a fur coat, in the room.

“How nice,” my mother said,

that your synagogue feels

so much like a home,

that the people are

so down to earth

that they welcome you

so completely.”

I agreed, of course, and think it’s true,

but I think as well

of the hats on the shelf

the stepping stool

in the corner

underneath them

and wonder if there will ever be a reason

to take them down again

while my mother is still here to wear them.






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