No matter how many times he was told to take the hat off, Bill remained resistant.
“It was my father’s,” he would explain to nobody in particular, “he always wore it this time of year.”
No one had the heart to remind Bill that he had never known his father, or that the hat had been purchased as a sort of gag by one of the more nefarious grand kids. But he wore that hat, poor old Bill, he wore it like the heirloom he believed it to be.
Initially, our collective familial stance on the hat being worn was resignment. “It’s Christmas,” we all said, “let him enjoy it.” And for a majority of the holiday they played along, complimenting Bill and his father’s hat, listening in as Bill conceived tales of the life of the hat, wild and imaginative yarns spanning generations of ancestors all donned in the leathery half-gallon hat that a grandkid picked up at a Value Village discount bin in West Texas.
It seemed to the whole family that Bill was in the best shape in years. The past six Christmas’, Bill would sit in the corner of the living room, hat-less, scarfing down Ritz crackers and slices of cheddar cheese, politely smiling when addressed, rarely taking matters any further. All the grandkids thought of Bill as the “quiet grandpa,” the one who wouldn’t entertain their childish notions, who wouldn’t play along when they aimed their finger guns and shouted pow.
The kids of Bill, by both blood and law, found the change unsettling. Throughout his entire life he’d been reserved, always saying just a little too little, but now? They couldn’t convince him to shut up.
Eventually Christmas passed, the new year came, and Bill still wore the thrift store hat. One of the more proper kids, one who felt the real world was serious business that should be taken seriously, told Bill of the hat’s true origins. “I know,” he said. “I’m not fucking stupid.”
Story by Mason Ahrens
A day which, at first, seemed almost identical to the last five Christmases Chuck had spent with his family. Ever since the newest addition to the family came into the world, a grandson named Joey, Chuck had spent each holiday telling stories to his grandchildren, providing them with seemingly endless candy, and making sure to let their parents know what an admirable job they had done raising them. While this routine may be enough to keep the average grandfather occupied, those closest to Chuck could tell that he was secretly longing for the days when the stories he told the kids took place in the present instead of the past. Instead of looking back on his older memories with fondness, the nostalgia he experienced seemed to be a burden.
All of this changed on this Christmas morning. After the usual explosion of excitement leading up to and following the opening of the kids’ gifts, it was soon time for the grown-ups to take their turn. Upon handing Chuck his first gift, the whole family watched in anticipation as he meticulously began picking the wrapping paper apart. After several seconds of struggling to remove the gift from its tight box, Chuck proudly presented his new cowboy hat to everyone in attendance. Despite the laughter from his relatives who immediately recognized the hat as a gag gift that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, Chuck was taken aback by the memories of watching Westerns with his young son when he was younger. Once he reached further back into his memory, Chuck was soon thinking more about playing with his friends in 3rd grade than he was about the present moment in his living room.
Much to the bewilderment of his children, Chuck decided to keep the hat on for the duration of the holiday festivities. After a few more years of continuing the tradition, it became commonplace for Grandpa to wear the hat with a smile every time he told the younger kids a story.
Story by W. L. Roberts