But back to the subject at hand: which post to repost for this celebration? The post about the clocks in our home? The one about my great-grandfather's confectionery? About the student nurses? About my grandmother and her lovely waist? My father as a young man? None of those, after all. It's this one: a moment in time, an action repeated time and again.
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Our house was a house of order and part of that order was this closet in our kitchen next to the back door. As soon as we came in the house, we hung our coats and put our hats and mittens on the shelf, ready to wear them when we left again. My mother also stored large, lidded metal cans of sugar and flour in this closet, ready to refill her canisters on the kitchen counter. In the fall, there were always bags of Northern Spy apples sitting on the floor of the closet. They stayed cool and fresh there because the unheated closet was against two outside walls. Apples were our after-school snack -- our only after-school snack. So "you won't spoil your dinner," my mother used to say.
This is my father, Lee Doyle, standing in front of the closet getting ready to leave. Dad always wore a hat when he went outside: summer, winter, rain, snow, heat, humidity, he always wore a hat, though not always the same hat. In summer he wore straw or cotton. In winter he wore felt or wool. His work hats were caps with a brim on the front. He wore those to work at Copperweld Steel or when he was working at home cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, or painting the house. Otherwise, his hats were always grey or black fedoras. When he was younger the brims were wider; as he grew older, he chose hats with slightly narrower brims (as in this photo). His hats had no feathers.
He took the jacket or coat out of the closet, put it on, adjusted it, then zipped it. Or if it was a sweater, he buttoned it. When he put on his hat I remember him adjusting it just so: it didn't perch, neither did it sit too low, but it was low enough and tight enough that the wind didn't blow it off. He took the car keys from on top of the refrigerator (to the left in this photograph) and then out the door to the car or the garage or to walk to the post office he went. I suspect that because it was April when this photo was taken, it was warm enough outside that he didn't need a jacket.
Things we see thousands of times we learn by heart. By heart I remember my father putting on his jacket and hat. What a commonplace thing to remember. What a commonplace thing to photograph! And yet it brings pleasure -- and sometimes just a touch of melancholy -- to clear the fog and refresh my memory of that small action.
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