It was an innocent enough thing to do, putting my hat on the rack, but it started a row of domino falls that ended in the Bit-ler crying.
To know why that rack was there in the first place, I’d have to go back to a time before I knew her, when I lived in Ireland, my sister and her husband came to visit. He went for a walk and came back with a mahogany board he’d found dumped in an empty lot. He planned to hand wax it, then mount hooks on it for me. He killed himself instead.
When I left Ireland, the man packing my things slagged me about the board – are there none in Scotland? I said, there were none like this one. I didn’t say it was a remnant of my dead brother-in-law’s love. And where did that love start? Well, because of the age difference between us, my sister brought him into the family when I was still a child, so I can’t say when it happened. He was there until he wasn’t. That’s not as glib a sequence as that sentence’s brevity implies.
It took five years for that board to become a coat rack. Wherever I live, it lives, even though my brother-in-law's death destroyed my sister, and eventually my relationship with her. So it came to the new house where El Punko and the Bit-ler bolted it to the wall a few weeks ago. The fuzzy alpine hat that I hung there, I bought it on a shopping trip with that same sister when I took the Bit-ler to meet my family for the first time. I loved that hat when I saw it in the shop. I love it still.
And so does the Doodle. She sees it hanging unprotected while the Bit-ler and I have brekky, and up she jumps, all 24” of her, to a 6’ height and I imagine hung her 50 pound self for a fraction of second, but long enough to pull the rack off the wall and make her escape, fuzzy hat in mouth.
We hear the noise, the sound of wood rack against wood floor muffled by coats and scarves, the noise of crazy Doodle running through the house. I keep brewing coffee while the Bit-ler checks on the odd sound, then comes back, sits at the table and cries. The theft of the fuzzy alpine hat tipped the scales for her; she’d had enough.
Her tears could be explained by the 15 hour neurosurgical list she played gas-lady for, or the 250 page document bundle about a work conflict that takes her into a place where young soldiers and pregnant Afghans and dusty children who don’t scream, are torn to bits. Or the request to console the family of a man she helped resuscitate on a train to get her hair, a man who later died. Or maybe just the fact she’s expected to deal with things most of us can’t, and still organise care for her 90 year old mother, try to paint a manger for the strawberries between rain showers, and her wife (that would be me) wanting to drag her Irish Catholic arse to a pagan Samhain celebration, not to mention do her real life test when her hormones have her sanity by the throat.
How she got here, not so easily traced as the mahogany board cum coat rack torn down by the Doodle. A favourite TV program about a GP watched forty years ago that led her to medicine. An Ireland with no choice but to export its young. A church, a society that says others are worse off than you, suffer now for a fictitious, posthumous reward she has no hope of receiving. Prepped for sacrifice, served up to narcissists and scroungers, flying monkey children, bystanders pointing fingers YOU’RE WEAK YOU’RE WEAK YOU’RE WEAK all to keep her in harness, emptying pockets, casting off pride, locking caskets of dreams for the sake of other people’s agendas. Because she was taught not to think of herself, so it’s herself she always thinking of, but in a not-nice way.
The vagaries of life, dependent on whether a hat’s hung on the rack in the hall or the closet.