The Red Hat Ladies

You may not know of the Red Hat Society but must have seen them. It is an organization of women over 50 who get together for pure entertainment and comradery. They go to lunch and a show, or a museum, something like that. And they all wear red hats.

The red hats come from the lines of a poem,

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.

Not the ones I met, but close.

Not the actual ones I met, but very similar.

I love to see them at Longwood Gardens where I volunteer. They are extroverts, laughing, out to have fun, very cheerful and positive. And they stand out with their in-your-face red hats.

So, last week as I was walking through the Main Conservatory to report for my shift, I saw two of them studying a map of the grounds. As with any visitors, I approached and asked if I could help them find something, but they shook their heads as if they did not want to speak with me and scurried off, a very curious and unusual response from anyone, especially red hat ladies.

Several hours later while at my post at Pierre du Pont’s house, I saw the entire group, about a dozen, gathered on the benches at the far side of the wide courtyard, all in their distinctive red hats.  They were signing to each other, and that explained the strange behavior.  They were a group of deaf red hat ladies.  The two I had seen earlier did not know how to easily convey this to me—or were tired of making themselves understood to strangers.

I am challenged by situations like this. As I observed them across the courtyard, I brought up a popular photo on my tablet of the House in early springtime when the wisteria along the balcony is spectacularly in bloom, and I walked over to them.   They abruptly stopped their signing and watched with apprehension as I approached, but I just held up the tablet and pointed to the front of the House. When they realized what it was, they became very animated, motioning for the others to come see, and furiously signing to each other. One of the women excitedly snatched the tablet from my hand and showed it to those in the back, just as I would expect of a red hat lady. The air filled with silent “Ooo’s” and “Ahhs.”  I tapped my hearing aids to be sure they were on.

As I turned to go back to the House, one of them, apparently the group spokesperson, touched my arm, and very slowly, planning each word beforehand, said in the flat accent of the deaf, “Thank you for showing that to us.”

I smiled, tipped my hat to them, and walked back to the House with a little tear in my eye. What a great place to volunteer!


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
This entry was posted in Longwood Gardens, Popular culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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