Kimberly Wynn White: Now, I must be honest with you. I never really felt sorry for Aunt Prince because she was mean. She was mean to me and she wasn't mean, but as a child, it always —

Kiplyn Primus: Felt like that.

Kimberly Wynn White: — I wasn't good enough for her. But I came home for a funeral and getting out of the car, to help my aunt, she was getting out of the hearse. And her sister — there were two of them at that time — but the two sisters, Prince and Magnolia, were living together at that time in their lives. And, Aunt Prince was getting out of the limousine, and I got behind her to help her out, and she held this beautiful, magnificent hat. And I whispered in her ear, "You need to let me take that hat; I could work that hat." And she looked up at me and she said, "Honey, come by the house after this is all over and quiet down, I got a hat for you. You're not ready for this one."

I looked at her, I was like, "Well, I think I could work it."

And she says, "You might work it, but you're not ready for it."

And I went back to the place, to her home with my mother, my sister-in-law Margot, and my younger sister, Verona. In this moment, I'm like, "Oh, we gotta go to Aunt Prince's house."

"You know, I'm just going to see her." They got in the car with me, and we went there. We talked and laughed the whole time, now we're leaving and I got to the front door and I said, "Oh Aunt Prince, I forgot about the hat!" 

And she said, "Oh, open that closet right there. You know, it's in that closet."

I opened the closet door and this closet was filled, all three walls of this closet, floor to the ceiling with boxes of hats — hat boxes. And I shook and, you know, that sense of those hats and of that closet. I turned and looked at my mother and my sister, my sister-in-law said, "Y'all might need to get a taxi, because I'm not leaving here until I see every hat in these boxes."

And they went and sat down. And I started putting on the hats and I would come out and every time I put on a hat, I would come out and I start telling a story, a family story, a story about my Aunt Prince, that I remember her in these hats.

Kiplyn Primus: In that hat.

Kimberly Wynn White: Every single hat had a story to it that I was recalling, coming out, talking to her and sharing these stories with her. And at one point she began to cry. And I'm like, "Oh Aunt Prince, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." She says, "No, child, I didn't think you paid me a bit of attention." She says, "I didn't think you liked me."

Well, I looked at her and I started laughing, I said, "Well the truth is, I didn't like you, I don't know if I still like you." (laughs)

Kiplyn Primus: But yeah, I was paying attention.

Kimberly Wynn White: I guess I was paying attention to you, and I didn't realize it either. I said, "But you know, Aunt Prince, I got a houseful of hats. And right now I'm realizing that my love for hats — I've got a hat collection — it might actually come from you."

And the two of us sat there and we cried. And I'm about to cry now.

Kiplyn Primus: Because of the hats.

Kimberly Wynn White: Because of the relationship we did not have. And then we had it; we discovered it.

This story was produced locally for GPB by Chase McGee and recorded in partnership with StoryCorps Atlanta.