Why a Simple Green Hat Is Significant To Me

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. After all, it is October and I am in the mountains of North Carolina. It was his favorite place to be in autumn.

How It All Started

My brother started college in the fall of 1986 at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. My parents, avid golfers at the time, purchased a two-bedroom condominium in nearby Sugar Mountain. It was a place they could enjoy while visiting my brother. Playing the beautiful mountain courses in the area was an added bonus.

As many college students do, my brother stayed in Boone after graduation. He married, had a child and bought a house.  In 1995, my parents built a cabin on his property. Over the years, our family enjoyed many good times at the Sugar Mountain Condo and Banner Elk Cabin. You can read about it here.

But autumn in the mountains was my dad’s favorite.

October In The Mountains

For years, my parents would spend two or three weeks in October in the mountains. After he retired, I remember my dad saying he would like to spend the whole month of October in the mountains but my mom still had things she was involved with at home. But you could always count on them being there for at least the middle two weeks of the month.

They would invite friends up to play golf with them. They knew all of the courses within about an hour of the mountains. Dad would make chili and always a fresh apple pie. It was his specialty — and always made with Mutsu apples.

Dad enjoyed going to the different festivals in October; Oktoberfest, The Valle Fair and The Woolly Worm Festival. It’s safe to say Oktoberfest was his favorite. 

He would don his green hat purchased on a ski trip to Germany years before, the one with a dozen or so hat pins from his travels. The party would move from the condo or cabin to the ski lodge at Sugar Mountain. They would find a table close to the window where they could hear the oompah band and watch the German dancers while raising a glass and dining on brats, sauerkraut and german potato salad. Dad had a sweet tooth so he would have to get an apple strudel to enjoy.

The last time my dad went to Oktoberfest was in 2019, before we had any idea of what was on the horizon. We had a big table of friends and family — a last hurrah of sorts. We just didn’t know it at the time.

Revisiting The Memories

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the Oktoberfest at Sugar Mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day and the fall colors were simply magnificent. As we walked into the lodge to get our lunch, I could picture my dad sitting by the window looking out at the oompah band and dancers. If it had not been such a beautiful day, I may have become melancholy.

Dad and I had many things in common, one of them being collecting souvenirs. When he died this past June, my mother spread some of his things out on a table. One of them was his green hat with all of the travel pins. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted it as a memento. I keep it on the shelf in our new place in the mountains.

When I told my mom we had gone to Oktoberfest, she wanted to know if I had worn Dad’s green hat. I had totally forgotten about it. We will be at the Valle Fair in Valle Crucis this weekend. I think I’ll wear it there while I look around at the craft vendors, drink a hot apple cider and enjoy a cup of Brunswick Stew. I may even go home with a bag of Mutsu apples, just what my dad would like. 

Maybe it’s time for me to make my first apple pie.

Miss you Dad!

How about you? Are you a collector? Do you own a special item that belonged to someone you loved? Is there a particular time of the year when you are reminded of a special person you’ve had to say goodbye to? I’d love to hear.

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