Yarmulkes Of Yesteryear

Where do you store your mementos? In a box in the attic? In a storage container in the basement? Perhaps. But there are some mementos that you can’t really put away. Others that you don’t quite know what to do with. I stick those mementos in the middle drawer of the living room cabinet.

The top drawer of the living room cabinet? That’s where my husband keeps his tallis, his tefillin, and his siddur. The bottom drawer is for the benchers. So, what’s in the middle drawer? That’s where we keep the yarmulkes. And the back of that middle drawer? That’s where you’ll find the yarmulkes of yesteryear.

A yarmulke of yesteryear? What in the world is a yarmulke of yesteryear? These are the kippot that have, let’s say, fallen out of fashion over the years. They’re just a bit dated, a bit unusual, or even uncomfortable for one reason or another, but I don’t want to say they’re “un-orthodox.”

Now, there are two or three yarmulkes that my husband wears. He’s very particular. Yet everywhere he goes, he seems to pick up another yarmulke or two. That’s great. He sticks them in that middle drawer. We’ve built up quite a collection over the years. And let’s grow that collection til its overflowing, right? Til I can’t close the drawer without stuffing them all in.

But well, styles change. You don’t still have those Jordache jeans from 1982, right? You got rid of them long ago. They’re not in style any more. (Nor did they fit anymore, but that’s another blog post entirely.) You got rid of those old shirts too. Replaced them with something more current. Or at least something less outdated. And I did the same when I cleaned out my closet yesterday. “Out with the old. In with the new,” as they say.

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Yet what is it about old yarmulkes? Is it just me and my husband or does everyone have a drawer in their house filled with old kippot? We’ve got the suede ones, the satin ones, the knit ones, and the leather ones. But flip them over, and check on the names and dates of those simchas. How far back can we go? The other day, I took them out and started to sort them. 1970s yarmulkes in one pile. 1980s in another. Then a bunch from the ‘90s. And already a ton from this millennium.

Those yarmulkes from the 1970s? They were big. And they were, well, loud and colorful. Crocheted with thick wool, with a pattern in gold. At least that’s the one I’m looking at now. Stylish at the time. Someone clearly made this one by hand. No date stamped from a simcha, but it’s clearly from the 70s, and it has my husband’s name on it. He even remembers who lovingly made it for him. Makes me smile to think that we still have something that my husband wore as a kid. Although, back then he’d clip it to his hair. Now? Well, let’s just say that his kippot can only balance on his head.

And we’ve got kippot from the 1980s, some with names long gone. My kids used to look at the back of those kippot and ask about the wedding of Benny and Rivka, Maury and Tikva, Avi and Sara. “Old family friends,” I’d say, ignoring the fact that we’ve lost touch with most of them over the years. Maybe I’ll send them an anniversary card? Their wedding date is stamped right there. “That’s weird,” my kids would say. I agree. What about the bar mitzvah of Daniel, of Eli, of Andy? Again, family friends from old neighborhoods, kids we went to school with, some we knew from camp. Who knows what they’re doing now? I do hope that they layned their bar mitzvah portion at shul on Shabbos over the years.

More kippot. From the ‘90s. More friends’ weddings. I tend to remember these anniversaries anyway (thanks Facebook). More recent kippot are from bar mitzvahs from our kids’ classmates and even a few of their weddings already. Nice stuff.

But what to do with kippot from the simchas of people who passed away? Kippot from weddings that ended in divorce? Or just kippot from people who are no longer religious? I just gather them all up again and push them back into the drawer. Absentmindedly, I ask my husband about one last kippa that I hadn’t noticed before. Knit, with his name on it. He smiles, but is evasive. When I press, he mumbles something about college. I ponder a new hashstag. #YarmulkesFromExGirlFriends. I wonder if we can get that trending?