Kaylee Herrick B1 Zara’s Hats Sara Zirkwekel was strange. At least that is what everyone in my 6th grade class thought. I don’t mean to sound rude, but if I pointed her out to you, you would have thought so too. Why would you think she was strange? Because Sara wasn’t like other girls. (At least that I could tell. I mean, I was a little boy, and girls had cooties, so what did I know about girls?) But as far as I had heard about girls, they like dressing up in pretty clothes and playing with dolls and building lemonade stands with their other friends. Not Sarah. She always played alone and she did not care about pretty clothes or lemonade stands at all (C). Sara also didn’t look like other girls. She had long, wiry, red hair that curled and twisted in every direction around her head. You think her hair would be her distinguishing feature, but it didn’t even come close to the coordinating hair bow, sweats, and glasses she wore every day to school (C). Each day it was a different theme. One day it would be a bow with the moon on it which coordinated with her sweats that had little solar systems all over and matched her glasses that sparkled like twinkling stars around the rims when she would turn her head. The next day, it would be purple sweats with leaves sewn on like patches with a corresponding tiara thing stuck on her crazy poufy, red head. Yep. Imagine that and then times that by every day of the year— pretty strange Not only did she dress strangely, but she acted strangely as well and I would know. Since I had been her next-door neighbor since the day I came into existence, I got to witness this strange behavior first hand (CX). Everyday, I could see her in her yard running around collecting flowers or painting smiley faces all over the trunk of her trees: can you say weird?
You think she would leave this at home, but she wouldn’t (C). At recess, she would wonder around all by herself grabbing things out of thin air and then look at you with this look in her eye like obviously there was something there that you just couldn’t see. Not only that, but she would run around collecting rocks that she would glue together into little castles and decorate them using grass and tar from the play area underneath the jungle gym. Yep. She had always been this way. She would live in her own little world and the rest of our class 6th grade class lived in ours. This continued just like it always had from Pre-K to 6th grade until career day. You would think that this would be inconsequential day, but for some reason on career day, the worlds of Sara Zerkewekel and our 6th grade class collided. Mrs. Kittle, our exuberant, but sometimes over the top 6th grade teacher, asked each of us to prepare a report on what we wanted to be when we grew up and why. People chose firemen, teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists; Of course, Johnny, the most popular kid in school, picked President of the United States—and of course no one argued with him, because what Johnny wanted, Johnny always got. I did my report on how I wanted to be an accountant like my dad. I liked numbers, and it seemed like a good career, and I knew people really like my dad, so it seemed like it pretty good choice. Anyway, everyone in the class had been able to tell what they wanted to be when they grew up except Sara. When it was her turn, I looked around and she was nowhere to be found (CX). Mrs. Kittle look concerned, “Has anyone seen Sara? She was just here a minute ago.” At that moment, Sara ran into the class in the craziest outfit I had seen in my life. (CX) She had on pink sweats with flowers painted all over them in acrylic paint, with some fake flowers twisted together around her neck and hands as jewelry, but that was pretty standard for Sara. The most ridiculous part of the outfit was her hat. Sara had a wide brimmed hat that had a variety of potted
plants glued around the hat that surrounded her head filled with roses, daffodils, and sunflowers just bursting into the air and over the brim of the hat. In her arms she had several other hats. One was made to look like a wedding cake with little blue ribbons all over it, and another had little plastic trees on it with part of the brim cut out of the hat where she had inserted a plastic container full of water to look like a lake. Our whole sixth grade classed was stunned and sat in silence as Sara began to speak. “Hi! My name is Sara Zirkewekel and I want to be a hat maker when I grow up, but not just any hat maker, oh no, a magical hat maker.” She cleared her throat and looked everyone straight in the eyes one by one (C). “I want everyone in the world to have a hat that matches their personality and passions! I am going to find a way to make hats with flowers that grow straight out of the hat, and hats made out of cake that are edible, but don’t melt or crumble when you wear them.” She stared at everyone in silence waiting for applause or bursts of excitement, but nothing happened. We just stared at her in amazement. I didn’t know what to think. Part of me felt it was a cool idea. I would want one of her hats. That is, until I heard Johnny, Mr. Future President of America Johnny, blurt out, “What a dumb idea. No one would ever want one of your stupid hats.” When Sara heard Johnny’s comment, Sara just lowered her head and looked at the ground as Johnny began to laugh, then the class started laugh, and then I started to laugh (CX). “Ya, what a dumb idea,” I thought, No one would want one of her hats—Sara is so strange.” So I laughed. I laughed with the class. I laughed because Johnny did and you always do what Jonny does because he gets what he wants.
Sara kept her head down as she walked back to her desk and kept it down for the rest of the day. I thought I saw a bead of water drop down Sara’s lowered face and water the fake flower necklace around her neck. I don’t remember thinking much more about Sara that year, but I do remember that summer I noticed a for sale sign on Sara’s lawn. I felt like I should go say goodbye, but mostly I just felt relieved that strange Sara would not be next door to do strange things anymore. It has been twenty years since that day in Mrs. Kittle’s 6th grade class. I didn’t become an accountant like my dad, but a writer, and as a writer, I see strange people a lot differently than I did when I was in Mrs. Kittle’s 6th grade class. Strange people have the best stories and usually end up doing the greatest things: they have become my favorite people to tell stories about. Whenever I am working on another story about someone, I think about Sara and what might have happened to her. Where did she go? Did we, ignorant little 6th graders afraid of a boy named Johnny, crush her dreams? (By the way, Johnny did not become president. He works at the local waste management plant. Yep. Johnny no longer gets what Johnny wants.) Last week an article crossed my desk at the New York Times about a new line of hats that is taking the world by surprise. Hats with real little trees that change color with the seasons and hats made out of cake shaped like the Eiffel tower that never crumble or melt in the sun. People all over the world are talking about these hats and how they have reinvented fashion forever. No one knows who makes them or how they work, but they can’t get enough of them. All I have been able to dig up about this mysterious, new artist is that the hat company is called Zara’s Hats. Something inside me hopes it can’t just be a coincidence how similar the facts add up to the little girl Sara I once knew. I am going to keep digging, but even if I never find out, I have a feeling that Sara turned out all right.