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I’ve railed for years about the supply of items that finds its way into the Lost and Found box at our community pool. By the end of the summer, we could outfit several kids (and a few dogs)with the collection. How could a kid leave his or her swimsuit at the pool? Or underwear? Or towel? The half-eaten lunches I can understand, but really…

Then it happened to me. After early morning swim this morning, I trotted home, having dried myself with my towel, put my t-shirt on over my still wet suit, put my runners on, towel in hand…only to arrive home and wonder where my hat was.

Gill has, for years, mocked my hat. I will admit, it deserves to be mocked. It is beige, has no style at all — unless dorky is a style (which I suppose it is!). I wear it when I swim — ostensibly (this is what I tell the general public)– to avoid sunstroke.It is actually to preserve my hair color. If I don’t, when I next go to my hairdresser for a ‘touch-up’, she’ll scream at me:”You’ve been swimming again, haven’t you? I told you to wear a bathing cap — or at least plaster your hair with conditioner to protect it!”

“But, but…”I plead. “I hate the tight feel of bathing caps and I don’t know of any woman my age who’d voluntarily let all her forehead wrinkles (and others) be exposed as much as they are when wearing a bathing cap. It’s just unseemly. As for the conditioner, they’d throw me out of the pool for clogging the drains with all that oozy conditioner crap.”

And so I have been wearing this, my tried and true dorky hat, in the pool for many years. It comes with fake fabric flowers on one side — which, I am proud to say, were apparently so fetching that a dragonfly once mistook them for the real thing and tried several times to land on them while I was swimming. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is!

So you can imagine how upset I was to discover I’d left my hat behind at the pool, virtually abandoning it after all those years of loyal service . Why, that hat is a world-traveler. It’s been to Mexico, Australia, new Zealand, the Caribbean…and always returned safely. And now it was gone!

I was terrified. Had someone stolen it? (I know, Gill, you’re thinking nobody in their right mind would even touch it, let alone steal it! Well, it would have contributed a great ‘crowning glory’ to a Hallowe’en costume.) But I did think that it more likely would have found its way, courtesy of the tidy lifeguards, to the top of the Lost and Found Heap.The guards do, it sometimes seems, spend a large amount of their ‘guarding ‘ time picking up toys after the not-too-disciplined kids of the neighborhood. Not that I’m one to criticize…my kids picked up precious little when they were young — except the ability to wheedle until they got their way or blame whatever evil thing they did on one of their siblings. But I digress.

But that was not its fate. Upon my speedy return to the pool, there it was, sitting all alone in the sun on the bench beside the pool — looking damp, deflated, crushed– like the outcast kid in the school cafeteria — the one nobody wants to eat lunch with.

Outings for the hat haven’t been as frequent as I’d like this summer — what with the late pool opening and unpredictable weather. But I take comfort in the fact that it is ‘my signature look’…along with my white terry robe that is two sizes too large and four kinds of ugly on me, my sunglasses and still, the gold hoop earrings. One should always dress for the occasion, I say, much to Gill’s chagrin. She thinks I’m dressing for a carnival show, not a swim. She is, however, usually willing to cut me some slack since I do swim a lot, unlike most other adults in the neighborhood.

With her summer holiday here to begin soon and our joint treks to the pool, I sort of feel I should sharpen up my image so she won’t be embarrassed. Nah, too late. I’ve been embarrassing her all her life with this getup…no point in deserting it now. Besides, the lifeguards know me just by my hat, sunglasses and earrings. A look like this takes time to perfect. Gill would likely comment that I’d be better off perfecting my swimming stroke which is, admittedly, unique…but it gets me where I’m going.

I (along with my trusty hat) can’t wait to join you at the pool, Gill! And I expect you to greet the hat with enthusiasm, deference even, since I almost lost it. Then how would you have felt?