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What to do with Ginette’s hat?

Remember Ginette, the panhandler who became self-conscious about smiling because all her teeth had been pulled?

Well, shortly after I blogged about her, Melinda, a Swiss blogger (she writes Misadventures in Knitting), very kindly knit Ginette a beautiful hat and sent it to me to give to her.

I had a hard time tracking Ginette down. She seemed to have abandoned her usual spot at Bank and Slater. For weeks I walked around with the hat in my knapsack, hoping to run into her. Winter turned to Spring. When I finally saw her on Elgin Street in June, hat weather had turned to hot weather, and I didn’t have the hat with me.

We sat and talked for awhile, and she told me she usually panhandled down in the Glebe now, but she’d gotten a few tickets for doing so. (If you knew Ginette, you’d know she just stands in her spot and smiles and hopes for the best. She doesn’t speak to anybody unless they speak first. She’s friendly but timid. I don’t understand why anybody would ticket her.)

She told me there was a church that paid her fines for her. She also told me that she and her husband had just celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. She’s still in love with her husband, who has severe disabilities. They have three children, two of whom are doing well. Her youngest daughter was about to graduate from high school in Edmonton, and Ginette’s eyes shone as she told me about her. The daughter’s social worker was trying to arrange for some funds for Ginette and her husband to attend the graduation. Ginette said that if the worker could get them out there, they probably wouldn’t come back to Ottawa.

I told Ginette that my friend Melinda in Switzerland had sent me a present for her, and I asked her to meet me the following day so I could give it to her. She was surprised and pleased and puzzled, and she said she would try to meet me at the same corner the next day at lunchtime.

She didn’t show up. This was a few months ago and I haven’t seen her since. I sincerely hope she made it to Edmonton.

Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering what to do with the beautiful handknit hat from Melinda.

Nicky DianeI’ll ask Melinda, of course, but I think I’d like to give it to Nicky-Diane. (When asked her name, she sometimes says it’s Nicky, and sometimes Diane, and probably other names as well. So I just call her Nicky-Diane.) Nicky-Diane is almost always at the corner of Bank and Albert, outside the Bridgehead. She’s tiny – I’m short, and I tower over her. She’s Aboriginal, has a terrible cough, gets cold easily, and is always warm and friendly to anyone who stops to talk to her.

The other day she told me a man had just given her five twenty-dollar-bills a half-hour earlier. “I’m still shaking,” she said, “Five twenties! I’ve heard of it happening to other people, but it’s never happened to me before! Five twenties!That’s a hundred dollars, isn’t it?”

Maybe Nicky-Diane’s luck has turned, and Melinda’s hat could be part of that.

Other options for Melinda’s hat: the Women’s Shelter next to my office is always looking for warm winter clothing for the women. And there’s a young woman who sits on the sidewalk near the grocery store at Bank and Somerset, selling her drawings for $5. She might be needing a warm hat pretty soon.

Any other ideas?

11 comments to What to do with Ginette’s hat?

  • Beverley

    Hi Zoom,

    I’ve seen Ginette, in the early morning (around 7:00 am), at the Tim Horton’s on Laurier (opposite the L’Eslplanade). I work close by and I usually see her there. I’ve also seen her later in the morning, around the Bridgehood location at Bank/Slater.


  • Beverley, I think your referring to Diane (pictured above), not Ginette. I used to work in the building you’re referring to and would see Diane every morning sitting at the Tim Hortons. On her table is a napkin with a few coins, but she never asks people for a handout directly. She has a smile on her face whenever someone talks to her and she seems to know most of those who work in the surrounding area. I give her money sometimes, but I *always* say hi and ask her how her day is going. Zoom, I say give the hat to Nicky-Diane.

  • Yes, the picture is of Nicky-Diane. I wish I had one of Ginette too. I was planning to take one of her in her new hat…

  • I say if you haven’t seen Ginette, give it to Nicky-Diane. If Ginette turns up again, I can whip up another one. It was an easy knit and I have quite a bit more stash yarn I could use. I’d love to know that my hats (if you were willing to deliver more) were going to people who need them.

    PS: I’d dispute actually being Swiss – I just live here, but then I’d have to admit to being American and sometimes I’m not so willing to do that either. Can I wait until after the election to commit? 😛

  • sheila

    Zoom, your post has inspired me. I’m going to knit a bunch of hats and mittens for adults to give to a local shelter. I think I’ll also sew some out of fleece.

  • Are you still volunteering at a homeless shelter? Maybe somebody there?

  • Melinda – thank you! I’ll wait till this warm snap is over (probably just a few more days) and then I’ll give Nicky-Diane the hat. I think she’ll really appreciate it, since, like me, she’s extra susceptible to the cold. And of course I’d be willing to deliver more – if you feel like making more, it would be my pleasure to deliver them. (Oh…and as for the Swiss/American thing…I see your dilemma. I’d stick with saying I’m Swiss for the next few hundred years until the rest of the world gets over Bush.)

    Sheila – that’s EXCELLENT. I love that you’re going to do that!

    Foundlings – congratulations on starting Ottawa’s newest blog. I haven’t started volunteering yet – I’ve just been for the orientation session so far. But yes, good idea. I’m sure lots of people at the shelter could use a warm hat.

  • Wow… capture emotion people’s true character with your writing. :) Thanks to people like you, those who are less fortunate have someone looking out for them.

  • Do you really think the rest of the world will get over Bush? My father predicted 8 years ago that he would go down as the worst president in American history and I think Bush lived up to that. Maybe I should just classify myself as a world citizen and be done with it.

    My newest obsession is handwarmers. I’ll whip up a couple pair in the coming weeks and get them off to you. I’ll probably need your address again though. I’m not a very good stalker (joke) and frequently lose these things.

  • Thanks Chris.

    Melinda – Bush has left a permanent stain on American history. The world won’t forget, but it might eventually move on if America doesn’t keep repeating history. (You’re right – World Citizen might be the way to go.) I re-sent my address. Handwarmers are an excellent idea. Thank you!

  • Les

    Lovely hat story. I have often thought I’d like to pass out some cushy toilet paper or kleenex to the homeless women in the city. Perhaps an odd thought but something I think about!