So I went camping in the north Georgia mountains this weekend. It’s beautiful country, the ancient Appalachian foothills and clear creeks and two-lane roads that swoop and snake amid fifty-foot-high pines. Over the course of the weekend, I had to make a couple runs up and back to suburbia. Somewhere along the line, I realized I’d lost my beloved Talladega hat.
Look, it’s not like this would be a huge tragedy; I got the kids there and back just fine, and I hit Talladega twice a year. Replacement wouldn’t be a huge deal.
Still: it’s a great damn hat.
Anyway, I had a vague memory of possibly placing the hat on the roof of the car while packing, and that made my stomach turn. I have a perfect 100 percent success rate of forgetting anything I put on the roof that’s not bolted down — cups, books, to-go boxes, etc. Indeed, there’s a scene from Raising Arizona that could be torn from my own life every time I do so:
Yeah. So, anyway, we’re talking about 70-some miles of distance between the camp and my house. Steep hillsides dotted with white crosses and washed-out gullies that quickly run out of sight amid the undergrowth. That hat was gone, baby, gone.
Except. Well. Driving south this morning, heading home, I was 20 miles south of camp when I came around a bend on State Route 19 and spotted — yep — the Talladega hat. Right there in the middle of the road. Somehow it had hung onto my car for 20 miles (and 200 sharp mountainside turns), only to drop off right onto the double-yellow lines, where it would wait patiently for 24 hours for me to come grab it.
Sure, it’s a little more beat-up; the brim is crushed right by the “This is Talladega” motto, but so what? It’s back.
Now, the metaphors are pretty much pre-baked here. You can write an entire sermon about The Prodigal Hat and second chances. You can say I didn’t learn a damn thing from my mistakes. You can, if you’re Alanis Morrissette, call it “ironic.” Or you can ascribe it to fantastic coincidence and the fact that life sometimes works out just fine.
Make of it what you will. Me, I’m never taking off this hat again.