As I walk into our son’s room this morning to welcome the new day by opening the blinds to the bright morning sun, I am struck by the surprise of seeing a small, red, felt cowboy hat lying on the floor next to him.  A deep smile from within pours through from the core of my being as if to say “ah.” 

Recently we’ve been studying the westward expansion of the United States.  During our history periods, we’ve been putting on our prairie hats – this old red hat for our son, and the Laura Ingles Wilder prairie bonnets for the girls.  To see that this hat has made it to his bedroom is to know that our son has connected with the history lessons – and the spirit of play.  He’s almost 8 and has rarely dresses up anymore.

The crux of the emotional pull from the depths of my memories comes from its history.  This is the cowboy hat I was given at the age of four by my paternal grandparents when our family moved to Arizona.  To me, this hat embodies the sweetness of my own young childhood.  There is a red suede vest that goes with it, too, and when the kids could fit into it, they often did.

It’s quite amazing that after over 20 moves in my life time, this hat and vest are still intact. Most of the other parts of my sweet life at four are gone. Perhaps it’s the connectedness from one sphere of life, one generation to the next that I feel as I see our children fill out these hats.  I am reminded of my own child – of the uninhabited  joy she felt and the love she had for life – and the significance of consistently being surrounded by family and extended family members. 

Sadly only me, my mother, brother and aunts survive this expanded family. The family I knew then – that gathered often, shared stories of my lineage (and the wars!) doted on me are all but gone.  While my mother is truly devoted and available to me in all the ways she can be for which I am richly blessed, the truth is I painfully miss the joy, laughter, and togetherness we shared when my grandparents were alive.  (A release of tears blurs my eyesight as I write.)  Once more I realize how much it was my two sets of biological grandparents who made our family what it was – and who largely shaped me! 

As the depths of profound yearning for the family life and freedom I had at the young age of four (until nine) are unleashed with the writing, I profoundly see the  significance of hope this red hat has represented to me during my lifetime.  I’ve held on these precious items as I’ve held onto the hope of knowing this deep joyfulness, the magic that comes in young childhood, with our own children.    

Seeing our son enjoy this unshaped cowboy hat is to realize that dream come true.  In actuality our children have been playing with these cowboy accessories for the last eight years. Perhaps seeing our kiddos in my own childhood cowboy ensemble has always struck a cord on a deeper, quieter level.  Today I capture it here, in the most earnest gratitude possible.  Thank you God for blessing me with our healthy, happy, creative, silly, adventurous, curious, joyful and lovely children. Thank you God for the privilege of passing on this hope of true love, which never fails.

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