Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Village of Many Hats: Fifth Excerpt

In this, the fifth excerpt  from The Village of Many Hats (ISBN: 978-0-88982-284-9, March 2012:$9.95), Gina has begun her work as a milliner's apprentice and all-round helper at Madame D'Oiseaux' gift shop in Silverado. Although I love hats, most of my small collection are meant for a cold and snowy winter climate, not the downpours or gale force winds of my lighthouse life! What I didn't realize until this story was well underway, was that my Welsh grandmother, Caroline Thomas, was a milliner's apprentice herself until she married my coal-mining grandfather, Stanley Woodward, and began raising a family of eight children in the village of Ton Pentre in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. In this photo, she is nineteen years of age. The curl in the middle of her forehead is quite fetching!
We had tea made from lavender, rose petals, lemon balm and hibiscus in real china tea-cups with matching saucers. We spent the last half hour of the day looking at Madame’s Paperboy Hat pattern and a big pile of second-hand clothes. We sorted them into smaller piles by colour and then by thicker and thinner fabrics. Then she said something that made my ears perk up.
          “These fabrics must all look good together and bring out the best in each other,” said Madame. “For instance, this grey tweed vest was worn by Professor Stan, beloved by his students after spending forty years teaching. He had a lovely baritone voice and sang in our village choir. Did you meet him, Gina?”
“Not really,” I said. “I knew who he was because he rode his bicycle everywhere but I didn’t know him well enough except to wave and say hello.”
Madame smiled. “He never stopped writing essays and books or thinking about the bigger world all around us. He had a wonderful sense of humour even though he held very strong opinions about what was right and wrong.”
           She held up a black wool dress. “This fine dress belonged to Beverly Sandon.  Bev was a very shy person but a good-hearted, brave woman who stepped in to help when another couple could not cope with their life. She looked after their three children after raising four of her own. She also quietly worked behind the scenes at our Lodge as an unpaid volunteer. She worked in the same way for the Community Club and for several other groups. Unlike Professor Stan, Bev was too shy to speak up in public about what mattered to her. But her kind actions showed us what she valued most in Silverado.”
She put the black wool beside Professor Stan’s grey tweed vest and looked at me.
“Finally, we need to give a touch of something youthful and joyous and creative to this hat. That’s why I’ve picked this gorgeous red dragon satin lining, from Koko Alamo’s kimono. It will brighten up anyone who is getting too dreary and serious, see?”
          She showed me all three materials placed beside each other. They did look perfect together. I don’t know what made me do it but I reached into the button box beside us. I picked out a gold button that looked like a seashell.
          “Perfect, oh, perfect!” Madame said and patted me on the cheek. “That’s from the vest once worn by Katrina Carpenter. She, like Koko, has energy to spare. She has the gift of getting all sorts of people to sort things out and work together on good ideas. I’ll put her button right on top! Merci bien, Gina!”
          I had that glowing feeling again, inside and out.
“Madame? Can you help me make a special hat for Sara, a kind of get-well hat maybe? With the right ingredients, you know?”
My mind was bouncing around trying to make sense. I wanted to make a hat, not muffins! But I liked the way Madame talked about each of the fabrics and the people who had worn them and why they were special people so I just had to blurt out the words that came to me first.
“Why, yes, of course we can do that. That will be our project first thing on Thursday. You’ve put in a good two hours of work today!”
 I ran home, racing the dark.
          I was already looking forward to Thursday.

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