Several years ago, in our pre-blog days, we took a “girlfriend getaway” during the first week of December. Our good friends thought we were crazy:
“How could you leave your families this time of year?”
“You’ll miss all the fun parties!”
“When will you manage the Christmas shopping?”
“Aren’t you too busy to take off work?”
Exactly our point.
While we did tackle some holiday shopping during the trip, without the benefit of frazzled crowds and piped-in Christmas music, we mostly just relaxed. Yes, we did miss a few parties and events, but our friends forgave us. And, somehow, we finished the pressing tasks at work and home in time.
Our great escape had the inverse effect of what our friends had predicted: it made our holidays run (and feel) smoother. Our stress-free break allowed us to enter those final hectic weeks of the year with calm and more open hearts.
We have since, separately, tried to continue the trend. This year we decided it was time for a reunion trip, ostensibly as a writer’s retreat.
So, here we are, sitting in Ketchum, Idaho, coffee shop, gaining inspiration from a larger-than-life photo of Papa Hemingway, But our best inspiration came during lunch on Saturday.
We kicked off our 48-hour retreat with roasted red-pepper soup at the Kneadery, a casual, local favorite, which features moose heads on the wall and a 10-foot stuffed grizzly bear by the door.
On this particular afternoon, the restaurant also boasted a boisterous tableful of lovely ladies, all wearing decorated red hats and purple coats or sweaters. We were immediately drawn to their laughter and positive energy.
We looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Looks like a great Permission Slip in the making.”
And it was.
“We’re part of the Red Hat Society,” the group’s leader, Poo Wright-Pullium, explained. “Actually, we’re the ‘Potato Heads’ chapter.”
Of course, we wanted to hear more.
“Our purpose is to have fun,” explained Wright-Pulliam. “We meet once a month, with the goal of just taking care of ourselves and not worrying about anyone or anything else.”
The ladies, wrapping up their meal, leaned in to tell us about their chapter and the international society – which we may be the last on the block to learn about.
Apparently the Red Hat Society was formed in 1998 by Sue Ellen Cooper, a Southern California woman of a certain age who was inspired by Jenny Joseph’s 1987 poem, Warning, with the oft-quoted line “When I grow old I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”
The society “began as a result of a few woman deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor, and elan,” according to the society’s website. “We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together.”
Now incorporating more than 20,000 chapters in the U.S. and 25 other countries, the Red Hat Society is the world’s largest woman’s social group; its members strive only to take life a little more lightly. The society is open to any woman aged 50 and up, while younger gals can attend meetings if they wear lavender clothing, not purple, and pink hats, instead of red ones.
In Ketchum, the lively group we encountered meets monthly for lunch and social activities, such as last weekend’s trek through the area’s holiday bazaars.
Clearly, it is not a sisterhood of the traveling pants, but a community of clashing red hats and purple clothes, geared solely for friendship and fun.
Chapter Queen Wright-Pulliam explained that the Potato Heads have met regularly for some eight years. Many of the members were not acquainted before joining the now tight-knit group. The ladies often pull together between monthly meetings to entertain visiting Red Hat Society members.
During birthday months, members must wear their outfits in reverse – red coats and clothing, and purple hats. That’s one way to keep the celebration going.
On meeting days, the members’ ostentatious red hats and bright purple clothing announce that they are out for fun and fellowship, and that they refuse to take themselves too seriously.
Especially during the holiday season, with unyielding pressures on most of our time, patience and pocketbooks, we could all stand to lighten up a little.
Saturday afternoon, the holiday spirit our new red-hatted friends exuded was contagious. We walked away, across a snow-covered, slippery sidewalk, feeling inspired.
Not only did we remember the value of a “time out” during the so-called “most wonderful time of the year,” but we also took to heart the reminder to relax more and stress less.
Hats off to you, ladies!