I never though Silent Night was a song about a fat guy called John Verson, a mother, and a child. I never thought our Father in Heaven was named Howard. In fact, I pretty much missed most of those adorable kids and church language bloopers. With this single exception: when I was a kid I was really, really confused about the portion of the service the pastor called the “giving of our tithes and offerings.” I thought he said “ties.” I knew about ties. I didn’t know what an offering was, so I finally reasoned that it was a hat. Every Sunday, I’d carefully watch the old man in the row ahead of me to see if he’d put his tie or his hat into the plate we passed down the pew. Most people, I knew, put in money, and I figured this was kind of a token gesture. The hats and ties, though, were the real deal, a sign of commitment to God. Something to do with that weird phrase about throwing your hat in the ring, probably. Maybe that weird metal plate with the velvet doily on the bottom was called a ring. I don’t know.

I sometimes do the children’s sermon, and I told this story once. The old man, whom I identified when I told the story, nearly fell out of his chair laughing.

Next week the pastor’s wife wanted to have a Ladies’ Hat Day. I hate the word lady, incidentally. Also “panty.” I do like wearing hats. They’re the last refuge of the curly-haired. I suggested we make it an Everybody Hat Day and ask people pay a buck to wear their hats in the building. We’ll send the money to an organization that fights malaria in Africa. It’s a childhood dream come true.