COL A pair of contrarians goes shopping at Goodwill

If the straw hat fits, your head's too big

It looked like she had taken a bite from a very sour apple.

"What do you think,'' I said, as I placed the straw hat on my head.

"It looks stupid,'' she said. "It makes your head look too big.''

It isn't, she assured me, that my brain is too big. The hat would be an embarrassment and would prove to her friends that her father was completely mad.


Such is life with my daughter the fashion critic. I have an affinity for straw hats, the kind worn by Amish farmers today and by English farmers of my father's generation. We had gone to the Goodwill store not to buy a hat for me, but for a pair of jeans for her. I wanted to make her aware that, at stores like Goodwill, there are options to new jeans and new anythings.

It was important, I thought, to show her that other people shop at Goodwill. A Hispanic mother helped her daughter find a patterned dress. Another family looked at tennis shoes for their children.

The trip came about when I noticed she had worn the same scruffy blue jeans to school for three straight weeks, give or take a month or two. There were other jeans in her closet -- even a pair of bib overalls that I thought had a lot of life left in them. She explained that the blue jeans that looked ready to fall apart were actually a lucky pair.

It was then that we decided to go to Goodwill, a choice that Sarah did not wholeheartedly endorse. Initially, she refused to look at the used jeans well organized in the little store. Persistence forced her to try on several pairs, two of which she purchased for $4.

There was plenty of money left to buy the straw hat, but her disapproval broke my will.

Sarah seemed to like her buys, but to my knowledge hasn't worn either pair to school yet. It's probably because a friend of ours gave her two pair that her daughter had outgrown. In any case, it's good for her to realize there are options to paying half-a-fortune for new when used will do.

Sarah's sister is busy making an outfit for a 4-H project. She must have inherited that interest from my mother, who sewed all my school clothes right through graduation.

At the time I envied those who wore store-bought things, not realizing how special it was that mother cared enough to make mine. Her old Singer machine -- with its foot pedal -- didn't sit silent too many days in winter.


Sarah has no interest in sewing. Sarah would be called a "tomboy'' if that term was still in use. Still, she is taking an interest in cooking. Recently, she made a cake with roughly a month's supply of chocolate chips melted across its surface. The cake -- it had the consistency of nearly dry cement -- was a flop. But the effort was noted and applauded even while everyone refused to eat it.

Sarah, as best I conclude, is somewhat a contrarian. My wife says that's my fault. I do not consider myself a contrarian. It's just that it seems more fun taking a road less traveled.

We are uncertain where Sarah's road will take her. I suspect the day will come when dresses and stylish jeans will become more important.

Chances are she'll remember the tattered jeans she wore for weeks on end in 8th grade. I sure remember the purple shirt I wore three times a week when I was in junior high -- a shirt lovingly made on that Singer machine.

Mychal Wilmes is Managing Editor of Agri News.

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