By Janice Lindsay
Our letter carrier rang the doorbell. Would I sign for a package from Poland?
I didn’t know. Would I? Who’d send me something from Poland? Being a sharp observer, I noticed right away that this battered white shipping envelope did not hail from Poland, Maine or Poland, Ohio. The return address read “Mlynska 20A, Radom, Poland.” The postage mark said things like “oplata poerana.” These would not pass my computer’s American English spell-check test.
I took a chance and signed.
The package contained my new winter hat. I had ordered a hat from Amazon. It did not occur to me that a Cossak hat might actually come from a Cossak-ish part of the world.
According to the shipping papers, I had ordered a “Faux Fur Cossak Russian Style Hat for Ladies Winter, Winter Hat for Women (S. Silver).”
This hat is not my usual style. But my husband grew tired of looking at my usual style, my battered old turquoise fleece hat, worn so many winters that it would stretch over my whole head should I choose to hide my face. He suggested that I buy a Cossak hat. He thought it would look nice.
I was not convinced. But I went online. So many colors, representing so many faux animals! And every one looked lovely on the mannequin, with her young perfect features and sloping jaw line that complemented the large furry dome atop her head. I chose a silver-gray faux fur, each hair tipped with black.
Sitting someplace other than on my head, my new headwear could be a fluffy furry mammal curled up to sleep. It definitely caught the attention of our two cats, until they detected no mammalian smell and perceived that this new arrival had no plans to move any time soon.
Sitting on my head, the hat looks as if it belongs on somebody else’s. It does not feel appropriate on a middle-aged practical-Yankee head. It should reside on a lovely young lady of the Russian persuasion, cavorting on the vast steppes with Dr. Zhivago.
I made up a name for the fur, in case anybody asks, which nobody has, maybe because they don’t wish to draw rude attention to the fact that, compared with hats of those around me, mine might be considered, well, different. Perhaps they don’t want to embarrass the hat itself, which seems to feel self-consciously foreign among its homey New England knitted colleagues.
I named the fur “silver gray European fox.” I have since discovered that there really are such animals, none of whom made the supreme sacrifice to keep my ears warm, though my hat could pass for one of their cousins. Previous generations of such foxes warmed the heads of Russian nobility.
I will get used to wearing my new headgear. It is toasty warm, with its black fleece lining, even as warm as my old floppy fleece. The faux fur will deflect blasts of wintry wind. And Dick thinks it looks nice. When I wear my big hat and my big sunglasses, he says, I could be mistaken for a visiting Hollywood star. Nobody has asked for my autograph.
Perhaps the reason my new winter chapeau feels out of place is that it does not seem compatible with my old winter coat, my gray-blue, extremely utilitarian, very Yankee, L. L. Bean down jacket with its water-repellent outer layer.
So I suppose I should now search for a “Faux Fur Cossak Russian Style Coat for Ladies Winter, Winter Coat for Women (S. Silver).”
I’ll bet they make those in Poland.
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