When I am old, I shall wear purple and a red hat, that doesnt go and doesnt suit me. These are the first few words of a poem that the Red Hat Society was inspired by. Women all over the country who are over 50 have embraced the idea of dressing up with purple outfits and red hats, and meeting regularly, just to have fun.
The women who gathered at the assisted living home last Saturday were way over 50, and they had already learned how to be old, as the poem describes on down the page. But they had forgotten how to have fun, or maybe they hadnt had the opportunity to celebrate themselves as women.
With the help of 4 of my own Red Hat sisters, Ginger, Beverly, Sandy, and Jackie, I organized a Red hat tea for the ladies at the assisted living home.
My mother had belonged to many clubs and organizations in her little town in Indiana, and she has been missing that kind of social activity, ever since she had to move to Ohio. Although she feels she has tried to make friends at the home, her attempts have failed. Its hard, when you cant see or hear very well. Its hard when you dont like to play Bingo or do chair exercises. Its hard when you dont like watching TV, even with other folks in the activities room. Like a mother, anguishing over watching her child feel isolated on the playground, Ive struggled with coming up with a way I can help her overcome her loneliness. On Saturday, I felt a slight change in the current. Seated around a large table with 12 other women, with the exuberant encouragement of Ginger and the other Red Hat hostesses, the ladies finally learned a little about one another that they had never had the opportunity to know. Who knew that Nora played basketball in high school so many years ago? Who knew that Betty used to be an artist, or that Marilyn had 5 brothers? These seemingly insignificant facts are the beginnings of recognition of one another as real people, who used to have real lives, and who have real names other than that woman who sits at the next table for meals.
The 5 of us who hosted this tea had gathered an hour early to decorate the table, make the tea, distribute the donated hats, fill out name tags, and help seat the ladies as they arrived. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we played it by ear as we went, with the backup of the experience of my fellow hostesses. They each had had a mother in a nursing home, and the each had volunteered their whole Saturday afternoon in honor and in memory of their own mothers. The kindness that permeated the room was like a breath of air for me, a daughter struggling to stay afloat fighting an undertoe of loneliness and depression threatening to carry her mother away in sadness. That kindness buoyed us all, but especially those 13 women who smiled, laughed, and learned each others names.