Finishing The Hat

06/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I didn't need a hat, yet I was really tempted when he asked if I wanted him to buy the one perched on my head. I was animatedly admiring my image in the mirror, and he loves me, so I could understand his inquiry.

"No, thanks," I said. "I don't need a hat, and we have so many bills to pay." Yet like a comedian simultaneously tamping down and encouraging audience applause, I kept the hat on my head while encouraging my husband to marvel at how appealing it was. Bewildered yet emboldened by my expressed astonishment that such a stylish and organic hemp chapeau was only $28, he again offered to purchase the hat. "No, we can't afford it," I said much more firmly. Without nuance or subtext this time, I returned the hat to the shelf and turned my attention to the nearby wine bottle holder fashioned from driftwood.

Since the real estate market (and my law practice) started to fray from the bottom fringes up, it was unusual for me to be in this upscale town, and even more unusual for me to be visiting a store that sold mainly ornamental and unnecessary items. But there I was, killing time before an essential appointment, holding hands with my spouse and wandering up and down Main Street, stepping into boutiques and shops to purely admire the kinds of fairly insignificant items I once acquired as fast as a flash of plastic could fly.

Did my husband miss the "old days" as well, when shopping was recreation? Undoubtedly. Did he want to make me happy since times have been so cheerless? I'm sure. But he didn't push me again about the hat, as we both were realistic people firmly entrenched in the here-and-now confines of our financial circumstances. And I didn't bring up all the perfectly plausible ways I could justify spending less than $30 on a hat.

I haven't forgotten those pre-2007 feelings of indulgence, even though they prevented me from fully preparing for the rain clouds of 2009 hovering over my (hat-less) head. While I have come to grips with knowing the days of see any hat -- buy any hat have conclusively ended for me, all that keeps me going some days is anticipating that my life's circumstances will improve just enough to adopt some variation on see an affordable hat -- buy an affordable hat.

Content again to resume window shopping while in the company of my husband, we made our way towards the exit without a backwards glance at the hat that formerly would have been mine. I hummed a bit of Sunday In The Park With George as we reached the doorway: Reaching through the world of the hat, like a window, back to this one from that... however you live, there's a part of you always standing by...

At the last second, I hesitated on the store's threshold, and then ducked back inside. But my fiscal resolve was not weakened by an impulsive purchase: I merely picked up a card listing the boutique's information. Then and there, caught between my old and new worlds, I optimistically vowed to return as soon as I could. That hat and I had unfinished business.