I was about nine years old when my mother and I started paying regular visits to an old lady in our small main street of shops. It was the only hat shop in the village. I am pretty sure she sold gloves, mittens and scarves as well to compliment the hats she offered.
Some of them I remember were real "old lady" hats in drab colors made of warm sensible materials whilst others to my child's eyes were truly beautiful. Fine delicate materials with veils and lace to wear to weddings or just a fancy garden party. I was always fascinated wondering around her small but well stocked shop.
It was always very quiet when we visited so I don't know how much business she actually did, she would pull out a couple of chairs for my mum and I, make us a cup of tea which she would serve in beautiful delicate china with tiny roses and gold around the rim of the cup. I felt very grown up and important as I sat quietly listening to the adults chat. Often she offered us a biscuit to go with our tea or a slice of cake. I still have a beautiful old broach that she gave me, made of bone with an intricate carving of a deer among the trees. While I have never worn it, whenever I catch sight of it in my drawer I smile remembering such a sweet lady and her hat shop. It's very rare to see a hat shop today, although I was curious enough to wander into one in Portland Oregon a few years ago, where we were offered champagne as we crossed the threshold. Now that's a great welcome and invitation to make customers want to explore further.
I never did know her name, she was always referred to as "lady". Over a few years my mum had grown very fond of her, perhaps they were both a little lonely. Although my mum kept herself very busy with her friends and entertaining three young children. When "lady" died I remember mum being teary eyed whenever "lady" was mentioned and she attended her funeral with my youngest brother in tow, unable to find someone to look after him that morning while the other two siblings were at school. At only three years old it was challenging to keep a young child quiet in an almost silent church. Although he was very well behaved for the hour, sitting quietly until his loud curious voice rang out "what's in the box then?" Just as the coffin was carried down the church aisle. For years my mum loved to tell that story of how mortified she had been. Although she was embarrassed, looking back I am sure it helped to lighten people's spirits at such an occasion.
What memories do you have of shopping as a child? Are there favorite stores you would visit?