The Grove

The Hat

The hat cost $35, more than I had hoped to spend. But this straw Fedora that I found at a stall at The Grove had the advantage of an adjustable interior band, which could be pulled tighter, making it smaller. This feature -- devised by the Chinese manufacturer -- created a hat that would fit my teensy head.

So, I sprung for it. I had been seeking such a hat for weeks. I was worried that my constant baseball cap wearing was thinning my hair. Although a Google search denied baseball caps as the culprits, the fact that I had been wearing them daily against Los Angeles' strong sun, pointed to those canvas covers as guilty parties.

"We all lose some hair as we get older," my daughter, Faith, who has a luscious head of dark brown hair, said.

"But, you can't see it on your head," I said. "With my gray hair, my scalp shows all of the empty places."

I figured that the straw hat, with a weave that allows air to flow through, would not create the heat generated by a baseball cap. Perhaps, my disappearing shoots would magically reappear.

So although the Fedora was purchased as sort of a prescription, I soon found that it was bringing me other benefits: people were stopping me on the street, or calling out from cars with, "Hey, I like your hat!"

With each salute, I'd preen like a beauty queen, which reminded me of my husband Tommy and his Stetson. I can't remember where we bought it, but it's easy for me to recall my late husband's adoration of that hat. Normally, he was a baseball cap kind of guy, and we had upper closet shelves full of imprinted varieties to confirm that. There were dozens hawking colleges, towns, golf courses, and museums.

When we met in 1996, Tommy was already losing his hair. He often told this silly joke: I have wavy hair; it's waving me goodbye. Those in earshot would groan, but that didn't stop him from repeating it whenever he got the chance. And because I found him to be so compatible, so endearing, I'd grin, no matter the number of reruns.

After we married in 1998, and he continued to lose his hair, I urged him to shave it all off. "It's sexy," I would say. What I kept to myself was, Please stop with the comb overs.

Tommy saved his beloved Stetson for evenings out and he would pair it with a leather jacket. This combo pleased him so much, that whenever he'd don this outfit, he'd spend a few minutes sashaying in front of the open hall closet doors.

After Tommy died, and before I left the house we lived in together, I had an estate sale. "Estate" is really a misnomer. The home we shared was a modest three-bedroom, two-story, with a large back yard and front porch. I'm not sure why you need to know that; it's just that I like to resurrect that image whenever I find an opening.

Anyway, now that I've made both of us sad with that picture of lost domesticity, here's another teary tidbit: I included all of my husband's clothing in that sale, including his Stetson. I don't know why I did that; why couldn't I have held on to the Stetson? I have his ashes, his watch, his wedding ring, and his wallet. I could've added the Stetson to the mini-memorial I've set up on my nightstand. But, you're right; maybe it would've been too much.

When I leave the house now, and place my Fedora upon my evidently smaller than normal head, I don't do the cute dance Tommy used to do. But, I do admit to a bit of showing off in front of the round mirror in my entry hall.  I have to do some adjusting before my exit, for although the hat fits width-wise, it is somewhat tall, so I squish it down a bit to look just so.

Of course I wish I could have Tommy on my arm with his Stetson. We'd be an adorable pair; each hat covering up our steady hair loss. But, that's not to be, so I'll wear my straw and tip it to my guy who taught me how to stylishly wear a hat.

Happy Holidays

I was the seventh resident to tape a greeting card to the wall of our building's elevator. The design I had selected, and affixed with double-sided Scotch tape, was as holiday-neutral as the others. Snowman, Santa, a sprig of holly (mine), and wintry scenes. No figure on the cross, crèche, or menorah

When I first saw the cards on the elevator wall, which bore people's first names only and their apartment number, I thought, how quaint. At the time, it didn't occur to me to join in on the display because I had only been a resident for a few weeks.

Although I had introduced myself to several neighbors on my walkway, and said hello to fellow passengers in this small elevator, I didn't feel long-term enough to post a greeting card. (I feel a need to explain the use of "walkway" rather than "floor," which would've been the terminology in a high-rise. But I live in a 24-unit building, which is square-shaped and overlooks a ground floor landscaped courtyard. To me, it's very film noire.)

But on this elevator day, after going up-and-down several times to do my laundry, I decided, why not? My card read, "Happy Holidays." I added in pen, "to all!" and signed Elaine, #21.

Some background: I have lived and adjusted, in a variety of neighborhoods; I count 15 since 1960, the year of my first marriage. This condominium building, which houses a few other renters like myself, is my latest challenge. I have a one-year lease -- enough time to plant myself and see if I flourish. Or, if I'm seasonal, like the holly on my card.

One nourishment -- along with my family -- is the fact that I have settled in a fertile neighborhood called "Beachwood." My daughters and her friends have told me that this is the place where they all docked when they first moved as a troupe from Chicago to L.A.

I like the idea that I'm in a setting of fresh starts, hopefulness, and even youthful enthusiasm, even though I've topped all newcomers' ages by several decades. Why can't this also be blossoming soil for the older set?

In an earlier essay, I claimed I wanted to find a place that was walking distance from my daughter Jill. I thought the proximity would ensure an easy transition from my former home and life in Chicago, and that I could untangle any familial knots and knit a new tapestry of family love so tight, it'd be impossible to unravel.

So, while I was temporarily housed in an Airbnb that was walking distance from my kin in Silver Lake, I reviewed half a dozen places nearby. Alas, none felt like home.

But, as soon as I stepped into this Beachwood apartment, I sent a text to Jill: "it's perfect." When she -- in a reversal of roles that had her playing the scrutinizing mother and me the silent daughter -- came for a viewing, she agreed and the year's lease was signed.

So, instead of walking distance to Jill, I'm a 30-minute bus ride (#2 along Sunset Blvd.) or a 10-minute Uber or Lyft car ride ($8) to her home. But in the swap of neighborhoods, while losing easy access to dear relatives, I gained a grocery store a block away (the amazing Gelson's), a comedy club, (Upright Citizens Brigade), and a second-hand bookstore (Counterpoint where I bought Alice Munro's "Friend of My Youth").

Another bonus of my new home -- that helps to make up for the distance from Jill -- is that I'm a 15-minute walk from buses that can take me to several favorites: Temple Israel of Hollywood, a reform synagogue for Saturday morning Torah study, to Target on La Brea, or to The Grove on 3rd and Fairfax with its Farmers Market and Apple store.

And recently, I walked 1.3 miles to The Trails coffee shop in lush Griffith Park. It's that benefit that has me grateful for my locale, for from opposite directions, mother and daughter recently met for coffee, conversation, and hugs.

Eventually, the holiday cards that are decorating the elevator will be tugged down. Perhaps before that happens, passengers will take a moment to flip the cover of each card and read the name of the signer. Most will have no clue about "Elaine." I figure I have the coming new year to correct that mystery; not only for my neighbors, but also for resident 21 herself.