Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wilbo Retrieves his Harris Tweed Flat Cap from the Methodist Church in Montague, Michigan and Leaves the Sanctuary with More.

I attended church at the Methodist Church north of White Lake, the actual lake called White Lake, on the third Sunday in September. It was raining steadily when I left my car, and I liked the rain. I like a steady warm rain better than a scorching sunny day. I took off my new flat cap when I entered the sanctuary to be polite. I am unused to this cap, and so I have left it behind at several occasions. Each time, I have thought about sewing contact information into the brim. I had left it in a dive bar called Mike's Inn the time before and I found it at noon the next day, hanging from a peg under the bar. Mike's Inn is a biker bar, and people who drink at Mike's don't mess with your stuff. I'm sure it's because most guests have served their country, and military people won't mess with gear that is not theirs. 

I'm not sure if I took it into my pew or hung it on a peg. All I know is last Sunday, after leaving the Harbor View Restaurant, I had a bare head covered with hair that required a hair cut. I was pretty sure the church was closed. I checked around the restaurant. The art gallery where I had heard a husband and wife play guitars and sing had closed. So I was polite by doffing my cap, and I was an asshole by requiring nice people to check under tables or in lost-and-founds. I'm living through my middle age and I still haven't mastered keeping my goods with me when I leave. 'Take you things with you when you leave', I tell my inner asshole.

I had bothered my friend, whom I had visited to see that Sunday. She had played piano as a guest artist for several years at the church, where even her brother had married a decade ago. It was her last performance before leaving town. So I had to see her.

I texted her to ask if I had left the church with the hat on my head, and she texted the choir director, her friend. So by Monday, I had a pianist and a musical director inconvenienced by my forgetfulness. Following up after dorks doesn't show up in their job descriptions. I hadn't heard anything by Friday, so I am almost glad that finding my cap went to the bottom of the priority list. Maybe the choir director inquired at the office and the office scanned the box of lost and found and that made an end of it.

The lost-and-found showed up in my life for the first time while I attended Byron Elementary School. I was that boy. That boy who had no sharpened pencils, and so the teacher would stand me in front of the class and ask, "Does anyone have a pencil that Wilbo can use"? I horde pencils now. I often sharpen ten of them and lay them side by side on my office desk. I find myself enjoying the feel of a Palomino Blackwing Special all too much. I'm sure someone has discovered a way to profit from a pencil fetish. Do I have a case of these fancy pencils? That is confidential information although I will say that pencils are easy to lose and hardly worth a search party. A personal stock means little possibility of being caught without a sharp point.

Recovering my hat was actually so simple it required no bothering of friends. I walked into the church's reception hall. A woman was sitting in an armchair by the fireplace, one woman sitting in a ring of newly upholstered antique armchairs. She smiled and asked me my business. I explained I was looking for my hat and asked for permission to scan through the sanctuary. I checked every pew, but to what good. I had left the hat, possibly, the Sunday before. 

I stepped out of the sanctuary, and she pointed at the top shelf of a hat rack. "Isn't that a hat"? And it was a slouchy pile of cloth, my forty-nine dollar hat I had purchased at an Irish Festival in the early part of September, a hat I had purchased to keep my head warm during a rainy and cold night with truly warm and amazing music performed under big white tents. I thanked her for her good eye.

Her partner was attending a religious education meeting, and she was waiting, reading a book. The name on the spine jumped out me. She was reading Wendell Berry. So I had to ask. How did a woman in an elegant go-to-church outfit and more than a touch of grey end up sitting and reading the first pages of a collection of Wendell Berry novellas in a Methodist Church? Simple, as she said as she pointed at the lending library down the hall, "I pick up a new book every Sunday, and I can return it when the spirit moves me". 

I sat on an upholstered chair and we talked. I introduced myself. She introduced herself. She wondered if I would attend next Sunday. I said I would be in Ann Arbor visiting with my daughter. She said, "I have to apologize. Next time you see me, please say your name again. I'm loosing my marbles". 

That gave me pause. So I had to say. "You found my hat with your eagle eyes. You are reading Wendell Berry for a Sunday lesson. Loosing your marbles. I'm the one who had lost my hat". That gave her and I a good laugh.

During the year I was born, she had turned forty-two years old. I hope I remember to take my hat home with me when I leave church, September of my ninety-third year. 

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