It seems that everyone in California admires a good hand-crocheted hat.
One of the beneficial by-products of deciding to let wheel-chair attendants push one through major airports lies in the positive feedback of passers-by to one’s attire. The normal barriers between humans dissipates when one has a disabling condition, whether temporary or permanent. Pregnancy, a broken limb, a rash, or crippled legs can act as a magic wand to allow others perceived license to cross normally intact lines. This permits commentary on any aspect of the person with the impairment — “When’s the baby due?”, followed by a pat on the belly; “Does it hurt?” accompanied by an arm squeeze.
In my case, nobody wants to know why a seemingly intact woman allows a small immigrant to propel her body through the throngs of travelers. They see the cane which I do not actually use but which I carry on my travels. It lends a legitimacy to my request for assistance which otherwise comes only when the gate-keepers see my walk. Fellow travelers nod as the assistants careen me past the lines. I have a walking stick and a serene smile; I’m not contagious, but neither am I a threat to their self-confidence. They judge me to be benign.
So they ask about collateral attributes.
On this most recent trip, the subject of inquiry most often involved my hat. I admit it’s grand. I made it myself. It’s round and a bit ripply. I crocheted it from scraps, so it’s an odd combination of brick-red and canary yellow. By complete happenstance, I acquired a jacket in those colors earlier this year. Suddenly an unfortunate choice becomes a fashion statement. To top off the effect, I pinned a yellow silk flower to one side of the beret. The addition appeals to me, though two or three of my three hundred husbands might have found it ridiculous.
In California, it made quite a stir. A dozen people commented. Several asked where I had purchased it. One lady offered me twenty dollars for it. Her money did not tempt me. It keeps me warm and I quite like the attention. There’s something about inducing all those people to smile as I am rushed past them which satisfies a need. Maybe it deflects the natural embarrassment attendant to my disability. Perhaps it’s just a lingering craving for compliments. Or something else: A recognition that the broken barrier had in fact outlived its usefulness.
It’s the fourteenth day of the forty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.