I’m a hat person. Each summer I buy two or three new hats. I’m always in search of the perfect hat—one that scrunches into my purse and unfolds miraculously into a perfect bonnet. My fear of skin cancer has driven me to contemplate using a veil, slits for the eyes. My skin doctor doesn’t believe in sunscreens. “Only hats with a ten centimeter rim… minimum,” he says, after scraping nasty cells off my skin like ketchup off a bun. Despite the pull of the veil, I shop for hats, a measuring tape always in my purse. But ten centimeters do not give me maximum shade. And a rim over ten makes me look like a walking wok cover.
Seeking ultimate protection this year, in mid-June I bought a parasol.
When I stood counting my shekels in the little shop on Derech Beit Lechem in Jerusalem, I pictured using the painted umbrella in Tel Aviv. I imagined wearing a white summer dress with a twirling skirt and comfortable walking shoes. My purse would be securely backpacked on my back, my hair unhatted and free to blow in the hot ocean breeze. Both hands would twirl my parasol as I pranced down the avenues—Arlosoroff, Ibn Gvirol, Ben-Gurion, the Promenade—smiling coyly and blinking at handsome young men as they passed and stared, becoming the flirt I never dared to be. I would be the essence of summer ease, strolling with my parasol in the city that accepts everything and I would be 100 per cent protected from the wicked sun
Whatever was I thinking? Fifth Avenue Easter Parade circa 1951? Champs Elysees circa 1925? Hadn’t the saleswoman mentioned Paris? Isn’t parasol a French word? But when I go to Tel Aviv every week, I go to babysit my granddaughter. We crawl on the floor in pajamas and read Good Night Moon in the afternoon. Who wants to go outside where the air is sticky and thick? And aren’t parasols supposed to be delicate and dainty? Mine is more reminiscent of a morning with Moloch than an afternoon by the Seine.
Yet, I always take my parasol with me, closed in my red plastic shopping basket and leaning against a bottle of water, a book and fresh figs. Yes, I wear a ten centimeter rim hat and shlep the parasol. Never once this summer have I used the arty creation, neither in Tel Aviv nor Jerusalem. Perhaps it’s the vivid colors, the unusual design. Perhaps I need a third hand or a servant to walk next to me holding it above my head. Perhaps I need that white summer dress with a skirt that twirls.
At home everyday the parasol stands at attention, reporting for service next to the hat chair.
Inside the house it’s delicate slats will be safe from sudden winds. Its vibrant colors will be protected from the fierce rays of the sun, that old sun who just roll around heaven all day and damage our skin.