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Rapberry Beret


It was 1985.

Bill Cosby was filling the airwaves with his psychedelic sweaters and slapstick style of dance; the Coca-Cola Corporation was trying to force their New Coke down the throats of skeptical consumers; a joint American-French expedition was braving frigid waters in an attempt to locate the Titanic; and Prince and The Revolution were taking us Around the World in a Day with songs like “Pop Life” and “Raspberry Beret.”

I was in eleventh grade. I had a mouth full of braces and a thin purple braid that hung down my back that I thought made me look “rad.” I had little interest in school (outside the social opportunities the establishment could provide me), my GPA was less than spectacular, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated from high school.

I would sit in class, listening to my English teacher wax poetic about the brilliant literary devices employed by Edgar Allen Poe or the Empress of the Onomatopoeia, Emily Dickinson. I would try to memorize the books of the Bible, the capitals of the world, the table of elements, but sometimes my mind would wander and before I realized it, I was humming “Raspberry Beret.”


“She wore a raspberry beret,
The kind you find in a second hand store…”

I know I should have cared about the competing forces of expansionism, nationalism, and
sectionalism during the Civil War, but I didn’t. I thought Prince and his lyrical tale of the fashionable girl in the bright pink chapeau were far more interesting than any dry, colorless textbook offering.

You can imagine the titillation I felt when my mother gave me a raspberry angora beret. I wore it to the mall the next day, with my pin-striped Guess jeans and my high-topped Nike court shoes and felt very hip; far more sophisticated than the average teen strolling through the Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee.

I wore the pin-striped jeans and the raspberry beret when we went to San Francisco to visit my stepfather’s grandmother. It was my first time meeting the eighty year old, partially blind woman and for some reason I was very nervous.


She squinted as she looked me up and down. Then, she noticed the beret on my head and her weathered face broke into a gap-toothed grin.

“Un qué sombrero bonito!” she said, then patted my cheek.

What a pretty hat.

I hardly remember the jeans and I don’t know what happened to the raspberry beret, but I remember the sweet old woman who offered me homemade cookies and shuffled around, trying to make us comfortable in her humble home.

That’s the way it is, isn’t it?

People resonate, memories remain, but material things just fade away…even highly-coveted raspberry berets.

2 comments:

Nancy the Romancechick said...

What a lovely story! No wonder you are a writer! I love it.

ParisMaddy said...

Raspberry, Rapberry, no matter what, you were pretty then but you're resonating now as a grown woman. Images pour into your narration. I'm convinced you are not only a unique person but unique writer as well.

Love you.