Do you remember the day you stopped being a kid? Do you remember the last time you had an epic adventure through the garden? Do you remember the last time you had a dream which took you through colourful lands of candy canes and friendly goblins?
If you try very hard, you’ll probably remember the dream in which you visited the hat factory in the sky?
No? Can’t remember?
Everyone has it – and just between you and me – it was no dream. It marks the day when all frivolity and innocence ends. It’s the day you become a grown-up, as it’s the day you choose your hat.
Mark was the kind of kid that found wonder in the way his dad tied a tie, and the way his mum popped her pimples. He asked questions of everything and jumped everywhere with springs in his legs. Moreover, his smile stretched from ear to ear, day to night. One night he went to bed and had the vivid dream of the hat factory in the sky. The outcome was most unfortunate for Mark.
Stood before the milliner, Mark was asked to choose. He could choose a goose, or a broccoli. He could choose an egg, or a roofing tile. He could choose a tomato, or he could choose a traffic cone. He chose many things and once the milliner saw what choices were made, a hat was constructed.
“This, young Mark, is the hat you have chosen.” Announced the milliner. He held the most beautiful hat Mark had ever seen. It was dark and heavy, like a cast iron teapot. But, Mark didn’t want such a heavy hat. “This hat will guide you on your path” said the milliner “and it will be invisible in the world of the awake, but it will always be there.”
Mark woke up the next morning with a stiff neck. He looked like he had a hangover, which is an odd look for a twelve-year-old. Each day for the next decade his neck got stiffer and his hung-over look grew more pronounced. He just couldn’t figure out how to take the hat off. He had some good days when his neck was fortified by good-luck or good company, but eventually he found himself thinking “if only I could take my whole head off for the day, and maybe put it back tomorrow.”
Mark just wanted to be left alone. He cut off his friends, he yelled at his parents, he tormented himself. A day came when, feeling helpless, he stopped eating and stopped sleeping. Eventually he was so tired that he fell into a deep sleep and a vivid dream world.
A milliner stood before Mark. “Do you like your hat?” asked the milliner. “No” Mark snapped. Unoffended, the milliner told Mark to simply remove it. “No one said you had to wear it. Most people don’t like my hats. Why have you been wearing it for so long anyway?” Mark was bewildered “I didn’t know how to take it off.”
Mark whipped his hat off and hurled it into the distance. “That’s it!” Said the milliner warmly. “Let the wind through your hair if you like. It’s up to you.”
Mark awoke to the voice of a paramedic. “What were you doing to yourself, mate? You nearly starved to death.” Mark noticed that his neck wasn’t stiff anymore. He had chosen not to die. Now he had to choose to live. With a bare head, it was time for him to make his own hat.