Hold on to that hat. A hat is more than a hat: My son’s first love

If we wanted to, we could count Lila Brownstein in 6th grade a first love. She would write long letters from Camp Hatikva to Roman, who would read them and sigh, wander around in a daze, but put them in his desk and forget to answer them, so moved with emotion. She would call and he would be so excited to hear the message on the machine that he would forget to call her back. Even when I nudged him to do so, he didn’t. He loved the idea of her love, but when it came to reciprocating, he would freeze up, loving it more in his imagination. This was a great insight for me: I saw first hand how the male’s sensitive mind worked.

Or maybe she just scared him. It ended with him and a broken heart that stunned him for 2 weeks, leaving him depressed and couched out. He only told my ex about the cause of his listlessness. After school for scandal, it turned out Lila was fast. Shed rumored to have had a threesome with her brother and his friend, older guys in Paris, and her liberal family had it coming to them, said the gossipers. She was worldly, tall beautiful, even I was intimidated by her. Maybe that was the problem: in a role reversal, my son didn’t put out. He was too innocent. I was proud of that.

My son is a stoic, sullen kind emotionally. He lent me his journal to read (I’m calling it the “New York City Naturalist”) and he reveals how being on the move and racing through all places with me all over the city with strangers forced his skill of adapting to new surroundings quickly. But, he adds, it made it impossible for him to settle completely.

So, when he announced after spring break that he was really into someone, this was a huge thing. Rachel the striking prom date was a significant one, but nothing like this. A mother can tell. I’d already met her, it turns out. Roman had offered to drive a couple of girls named C___ to Patagonia in Palo Alto. When he came to pick me up, though, he hadn’t told me we had other people involved. I happened to be in town for Cinequest and my brother and I had only rolled in hours before from the closing night party. I went out to my car to get something to throw on, wearing only a towel and underwear holding up my hair, my fail-safe trick when I can’t find a scrunchie.

I hear this sweet voice, “Hello.” I screamed. My towel almost fell off in the street.


I chided Roman that he should have told me there were girls in tow, especially with undies in my hair, and she laughed, admiring “I hope I’m having that much fun when I’m that age.” You will, my dear.


Roman announced he was bringing her to LA to show her his home. She was staying with us and that was it.


Now, she had to go leave. Tears in her eyes. Thinking back to my love, Chris Wheaton, tears to mine. She said she was going to do nothing the next day except process her emotions. Five months apart, just when it was all so perfect, …why life? Oh why? Letter writing will make it stronger, I assured her. But were Chris and I still together? No. And partly it was brought on by the changes that came from traveling. It will change things. At least we’ll always be friends, she said meekly.  She was thinking of her first boyfriend they’d just visited together at Occidental.

Oh, but for the awakening in Baja – the trip of discovery, the flow and naturalism of being put in the same kayak together, of seeing each other in class every day, of his being in a different group.

She revealed, through a layer of tears, that she never thought she would meet someone at college. And she was so surprised by him and he by her – she is in the “different” group. He won’t even be gone the entire quarter, I offered. They wouldn’t have seen each other anyway until late Sept, and she’ll be in India and they have Skype! She smiled.

I was outside working and talking to Adrian when I heard the bathroom door slam. He was back from dropping her off at the airport. Here we go, I told The Big A. I have to go and be here for him. But he was fine. He’d done as I suggested, dropped her off with the bags, park the car in free parking and shuttle it.  He skateboarded back to the car after kissing her goodbye.

That was it. He had no worries, he said. Marry her already. I’d be fine with that. Ok. I said she was more the loose cannon with trust issues after her parents divorce. He said we’ve worked through a lot with her, that’s mainly what we deal with. Adrian said how like me she is, Roman slyly nodded. I know, but we never need to talk about that. We played a game of chess. He skateboarded off to Sully’s for the final basketball game and we planned to end the night with a “Game of Thrones” marathon.

All started out ok. Illegal download of Game of Thrones a little glitchy – that was the first agitation. (Karma?) Then, he started a wondering…where’s my hat? I saw him drive away with it. He shot up. He looked around the house, another stint in the bathroom and then he came out and collapsed in tears on my chest. What what? My hat…I left it at the airport. Sobbing. Oh, you’re so emotional. It’s just a thing. No it was from Father Eddie and signed. It was all going so well. Now the tears about C____. Oh, I know, hugging him tightly rubbing his head, thinking back to where the hat was put down.

Let’s be proactive, I cried. Let’s go to the airport and see if someone turned it in.

A beam of hope. A Besotted drive.

Cops let him drop the car wherever. I stood at the car in the middle of the street – cops everywhere. It was amazing in this day and age. Then he and a cop come out of the lost and found. All is not lost.

Came home after giving up, no sign to it – just a thing, and to realize the bigger things in life. He closed the bathroom door, totally drained from all the emotions.


And there was the hat.