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For Want of a Hat

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November 2004

When Stanley Pines received a phone call from his nephew and niece-in-law asking him to come down to Piedmont, California to babysit the twins over the weekend while they were away for their friend’s wedding, the con man thought it would be a piece of cake. The last time he saw Mabel and Mason they had celebrated their first birthday, surely the twins would not have changed that much since then. Stan would watch the tykes for three days, make sure they don’t get into any trouble. Easy peasy, right? 

What Stan did not expect was to be captivated by his niece and nephew to the point where he was wrapped around their chubby little fingers.

Even as five-year-olds the twins were as precious as when they were newborns. Mabel and Mason (who insisted on being called Dipper) Pines were small, yet energetic children who stole Stan’s heart yet again. Mabel was quite the talker, informing him of her many interests, which range from stuffed animals to unicorns, and asking him questions about what he likes. Dipper, though a tad quieter, also talked to Stan about his favorite books and showcased his Monster-Mon trading card collection to him. When Stan brought up his occupation as proprietor of the Mystery Shack, Dipper immediately asked him questions on the different creatures he worked with, such as the Loch Ness Monster (or Nessie as Dipper called her), Sasquatch, and Godzilla.

Fortunately for Stan, he was able to watch over the kids on Friday with no major issues whatsoever.

Now it was a lazy Saturday morning when Stan decided that he should spend some quality time with the niblings outside the house. As he put away the dishes from breakfast, the fifty-something-year-old man brought upon a suggestion for the kids.

“Alright kiddos,” He announced as he put approached Mabel and Dipper, who were eagerly sitting at the table. “Since it’s a beautiful day outside, how about the three of us go to the park?”

The kids responded with whoops of joy while they pumped their fists in the air. Dear Moses these kids are so precious...

“Why don’t you kids go upstairs and get ready,” Stan said.

“Okay!” They chorused in near unison. Dipper and Mabel began to run up the stairs to get ready for the day.

You’re doin’ alright Stan, He thought to himself. The kids were easy to take care of. Just engage them in some fun activities and they’ll tire themselves out well before bedtime. Stan had enough hard cash in his trunk to pay for any expenses, but he was willing to shell out every dollar he had just to make the twins happy. Everything was going according to plan.

Dipper marched down the stairs alongside his sister, wearing a camouflage army helmet (which he had for no discernible reason). Stan was confused with his nephew’s bold fashion choice, to say the least.

Once the tiny children jumped from the bottom step of the stairs, they jogged towards their Grunkle with beaming smiles.

“We’re ready Grunkle Stan!” Mabel hollered in a bubbly voice.

“Let’s get goin’!” Dipper added with equal excitement.

Stan wanted to take in the overall adorableness of the niblings, but his gaze was still focused on the old army helmet that practically swallowed half of his nephew’s head.

“What’s with the weird hat kiddo?”

The boy stared at him with a blank expression. It was as though no one had ever questioned his helmet before. “Your hat’s pretty weird too Grunkle Stan.” Dipper sassed, causing Mabel to giggle.

The old man was miffed by his nephew’s snarky attitude, but he was secretly proud of the kid. But Stan was not going to allow Dipper to walk outside the house looking like an active member of the military.

“Okay lieutenant, are ya gonna tell yer old man here why ya have that helmet on? We’re only goin’ to the park, not the battlefield!”

Stan was about to take off the helmet, but Dipper smacked the old man’s calloused hand. The boy looked visibly upset by his Grunkle’s action, his eyes piercing through the old man’s soul.

“Don’t!” Dipper snapped angrily, his hands now guarding his helmet. His furious reaction shocked his Grunkle, but the old man refused to bow down. 

“Well, why not?” Stan argued.

“Cause I don’t want anyone to see my birthmark!!” The boy yelled.

Stan was taken aback by the pain in his nephew’s voice, but his face soon softened with concern. The big dipper birthmark on his nephew’s forehead truly made him unique, to the point where it became his nickname. But others were too blind to see its beauty and would be quick to mock such a special feature.

Dipper’s situation eerily mirrored that with his brother Ford’s. Born with six-fingers on each hand, Ford was quick to hide his hands when approached by others. Stan tried to make Ford feel like his abnormality was something positive, from high-sixes to adopting ‘Sixer’ as a playful nickname.

Stan looked back at his nephew and was immediately dismayed at how downtrodden the boy looked. Dipper still held a secure grip on the sides of his helmet while Mabel was comforting him. Stan was going to whatever he could to lift his nephew’s spirits and he knew exactly how.

Stan smiled at the boy as he knelt down to meet with him at eye level. “Tell ya what kiddo, we can go to the store and I’ll get a hat for you and your sister. Now how’s that sound?”

“You’d really do that for us Grunkle Stan?” Dipper questioned, his eyes glimmering with a sense of hope.

"Of course kid," Stan affirmed, giving him a concise nod. His approval garnered a cheerful response from the twins.

“We’re gonna get new hats Dipper!” Mabel exclaimed. “And we’re gonna buy the best hats in town!”

“Yeah!” Dipper agreed enthusiastically.

“But first, I’m gonna make sure that you wear a more stylish hat on the ride there.” Stan said. Taking off his fez, he placed his most treasured hat onto Dipper’s head. Oddly enough, the fez perfectly fitted the boy’s crown.

Dipper looked up to see Stan beaming. “Lookin’ classy there slick!”

Dipper flashed a toothy grin at his Grunkle. Stan felt his heart swell at the sight of his happy nephew.

When the three arrived at the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart, Mabel immediately latched onto Stan’s side.

“Pick me up! Pick me up!” She happily pleaded, tugging at the end of his Hawaiian shirt. Stan grinned at his niece and obliged.  

“As you wish sweetie!” He scooped her up into his meaty arms, causing the girl to giggle as she was lifted up. Dipper looked up at his sister with a smile. Stan noticed his boy was still standing beside him.

“You want to be picked up too little guy?” He offered.

Dipper shook his head, staring at the old man defiantly. “I don’t need to be picked up. I’m a big boy.”

Stan smiled at his nephew for displaying his desire for independence at such a young age. “Whatever floats your boat Dipper. But you have to hold my hand while we go through the parking lot, capiche?”

“Capiche.” Dipper firmly replied.

Stan took the boy’s small hand into his large, calloused one. As they walked through the parking lot, Stan glanced at the two children, both looking at the store with a sense of adventure and wonder. He held the twins close to him as they cautiously walked by the passing vehicles nearby.

I don’t deserve to be in the presence of these wonderful kids… Stan thought with heavy self-deprecation. If the twins learned of who he truly was, he was certain they would think ill of him. But he couldn’t let his remorse swallow him whole. He had a job to do and it was to watch over the kids. There was no way he could afford to screw that up despite his record of getting into awful situations.

Once the Pines family approached the clothing section, he settled Mabel down next to her brother and he knelt down to talk to the twins.

“Let’s take a look around and show me which hats ya like to get, okay?”

“Okay!!” The twins chirped.

Stan watched his little twins eagerly scouring through the aisle with deep contentment. The scene that unfolded before his very eyes tugged at his heartstrings more than he would have liked. Seeing Dipper and Mabel giggling as they raced towards the end of the aisle reminded him of more happier times with his own twin. The times he and Ford spent their days running around the beach of their small New Jersey town. The time in which they pretended to be explorers akin to those from the movies, searching for whatever ‘artifacts’ they could find. Their long hours building the Stan o’ War, discussing their future plans filled with adventure, treasure hunting, and babes.

Stan stopped himself. He couldn’t bring himself to remember his falling out with Ford. Not now, not in front of the kids.

The fez-headed man hoped that his niece and nephew would keep their strong sibling bond well through adulthood. The last thing he wants for the kids is to end up like him and his brother. Bitter from late adolescence only to be astronomically distant as adults, even in the literal sense.

“Grunkle Stan!” He heard Dipper pipe up. “I found my hat!”

The five-year-old Stan inspected the hat, noting the red and black colors as well as the dinosaur skeleton smack dab in the middle. The emblem was eerily similar to a certain movie poster that he couldn’t recall.

“Whatcha got there, Dipper?”

“A T-Rex hat!” Dipper proclaimed. “A tyren-” His face soured as he struggled with vocalizing the scientific name for the dinosaur. But after a few moments, Dipper’s eyes lit up as he made a second attempt. “A Tyrannosaurus Rex!!” The small boy declared, proud that he was able to correctly pronounce a difficult word.

“It most certainly is,” Stan noted with a grin. The boy certainly had a lot of smarts for his age. Maybe too smart for his own good at times. Stan couldn’t even remember saying words that long when he was five, but he was proud of his nephew nonetheless.

The old man saw his nephew taking off the prized fez and handing it over to him. Stan gingerly accepted his iconic hat. Just as he placed the fez back on his head, Dipper quickly tried on the dinosaur hat, adjusting it carefully so that it perfectly concealed his Big Dipper birthmark from view.

“That hat suits ya kiddo!” Stan praised, playfully tipping up his nephew’s hat as he flashed the boy a grin. Dipper gave his Grunkle a grateful smile, no doubt swelling the old man’s supposedly stone heart.

“Grunkle Stan! Grunkle Stan!” Mabel squealed. The little girl sprinted up to the two, gripping onto a magenta visor. “I found my new hat!” She declared as she placed the item on her head.

“You look very nice pumpkin.” Stan complimented. “Now how about we head on out to the park?”

“Yeah!!” The twins exclaimed.

Mabel ran towards her Grunkle and he immediately picked her up. Stan softly took Dipper’s hand and they began their walk towards the exit, ignoring the checkout line entirely. 

“Grunkle Stan,” Dipper spoke up. The con man looked down to see his nephew giving him a tearful smile. “Thank you for getting hats for us.”

Stan was in awe of the boy’s gratitude. Having picked out a hat had meant so much to Dipper. The kid could finally be able to go out into the world without having to worry about anyone else gawking at his birthmark. Stan had given Dipper the confidence he needed.

Grunkle Stan smiled back at his nephew. “Anything for you kiddo.”