Red Hat Society

Ten years ago, I read about an organization of women over 50 called the Red Hat Society. It was a loosely organized club, whose purpose was to provide an excuse for women to gather and just have fun. There were no dues, no minutes, no projects, and no fund-raising. The name came from a famous poem that starts out something like, When I am old, I shall wear purple, and a red hat that doesn’t go. The whole notion of getting together with women my age for the sole purpose of having a good time was intriguing to me. But there wasn’t a chapter near my home. What to do.

Of course the answer was to start one. I had started La Leche League in my town, a 4-H group, and a Toastmasters Club. Why not a Red Hat Society group? I bought a red hat, called some of my women friends, attended an event sponsored by an existing group, got some ideas from their website, and we were a chapter. Besides having a reason to dress up in purple and red, my personal goal was to make some friends, girlfriends, to go do things with. We went to the Columbus Arts Festival, the Westerville Arts Festival, the Slate Run Winery, Picnic with the Pops, and to tea and to lunch. We had a game night, at the Shamrock Club, and we walked in the Race for the Cure. We even went together to the funeral of one of our original members. We didn’t wear our red hats, but we sat together in sisterhood. Indeed, it’s a kind of sorority for women who have reached an age of maturity that you wouldn’t necessarily pair with the idea of a sorority. We often attracted new members when we were out at a restaurant, as other women looked on longingly at the extravagant fun we were having.

After a few years, I turned over the leadership to Beth, another of our original members. The leader of each chapter is called the Queen Mother. Beth was much more suited for Queen Mothership, as she knew how to make each activity a party, with favors, costume contests, door prizes, and outrageous fun.

Because my life got a little too busy, I dropped out, but fortunately, I was not forgotten as the founding QM. Last Saturday, the Gadabout Gals, as our chapter is known, held its 10th anniversary at the Worthington Inn. It was a much more emotional experience than I had expected. Several of the women, who knew me back in the day, greeted me with hugs and smiles. Many times throughout the afternoon, they mentioned that if it weren’t for me, this group wouldn’t exist. Every time I thought about how this idea had flourished and continued to grow, my eyes would sting with tears. But what affected me most was the tastefully decorated memory table. 4 of our members had died, one of whom was Nancy. I didn’t know Nancy had died until that afternoon as the table was described to me. I hadn’t been particularly close to Nancy, but I liked her a lot, and she had died just a few months after her retirement. I wasn’t prepared for such a shock. But the memory table was a sweet tribute to those 4 wonderful ladies, and the laughter and smiles were a wonderful tribute to the whole idea of the Red Hat Society.

One Mothers Day, a few years ago, my mother came to visit, and I took her to a Red Hat tea. She fell in love with the idea and started a chapter in her town, and naturally, she was the Queen Mother. Now that she lives in assisted living, the red hats are languishing on the top shelf of her closet. I mentioned to a few of the ladies last Saturday that I’m considering organizing a Red hat group where Mother lives. In true sisterhood fashion, 2 of them offered to help, in honor of their mothers, and a third has committed to donating some red hats. My daughter has offered to help with ideas for simple activities. We’ll begin after the first of the year. I guess it’s just time for me to start something again.

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