Wyoming Easter

           Springtime in Wyoming was always a very iffy thing. Nevertheless after a few balmy days in a row, my mother and the crocuses usually came out together, beguiled once again into believing that winter was over. Despite years of discouraging meteorological data, my mother began laying plans for a “nice Easter.”  She never fully accepted that Mother Nature, while enchanting, also has a mean streak in her, and might decide to whip up gale force winds or a full scale blizzard for Easter Sunday.

            But no matter what the weather might be, Easter outfits were still of primary importance. My mother always had visions of how she wanted me to look. Generally speaking this was all right with me. I liked new clothes and shiny patent leather shoes and I had every expectation of fitting right in with all the other 8-year old girls in my Sunday school class. We might arrive at church in winter coats and galoshes, but we would have bows in our hair. Underneath the heavy coats we would be wearing the lace-trimmed dotted Swiss or flowered dimity dresses our mothers had made for us.

            However, a friend of the family unexpectedly sent me a dress. It came all the way from the Philippine Islands where she and her army officer husband were stationed. The dress was pure white, lavishly embroidered in bright blue around the neck and sleeves and hemline, and it had a tasseled draw-string at the waist. Mother, an expert needlewoman herself, was in raptures over the exquisite, complex embroidery, and declared that I was the most fortunate of little girls to have such a lovely dress. I was aghast. I had never seen anything remotely like it before—it looked foreign, and I felt peculiar in it. Young herd animal that I was, I wanted to look exactly like my friends.

            I knew there was absolutely no way to explain to mother that I hated the dress, and any show of petulance was impermissible. I had learned that in certain circumstances bowing to authority was my only feasible option.         

             Mother decided that the dress required a hat to complete its effect. This entailed a visit to Miss Cottingham’s Millinery Shoppe which was a hushed and carpeted place, somewhat like the funeral parlor I had once been in, a place for final arrangements.

           The hats were displayed on small stands atop tables. Mother flitted about like a hummingbird among flowers, while Miss Cottingham followed behind her with the rapt patience of a stalking cat. A white hat of “superior quality Milan straw” was placed upon my head. After negotiating a change of ribbon streamers to exactly match the blue in my dress, a transaction was completed.

           Easter morning dawned fair, sparkling and almost warm. Mother was ecstatic as our family set off on the walk to church. My older brother and I walked in front, followed by our parents. We looked like the ideal happy family, although this was only three-quarters true. I was miserable.

            My darkest misgivings proved warranted. When I entered the Sunday school room, all chattering ceased and my contemporaries eyed me in shocked silence. However my Sunday school teacher greeted me with utmost warmth. “Hello, dear, how nice you look. I’ll bet your pretty dress came from the Philippines.” She turned to the class and continued, “Remember how we’ve talked about the missionaries our church sends to the Philippine Islands, where people are often so poor they don’t have enough to eat? And yet, just imagine, they can find happiness in making beautiful things.” Our class really respected missionaries and some of us thought we might someday become missionaries ourselves. Suddenly I was seen in a whole new, quasi-glamorous light. I was after all clothed in an exotic garment made by people in a far-away place, brave people who needed our help.

          As our family, now 100% happy, emerged from the church, my hat was snatched from my head by a sudden powerful gust of wind, seemingly coming from nowhere. Streamers flying behind it, the hat whirled upward, then gyrated erratically downward, to impale itself on the bare branch of a lilac bush. When my brother retrieved it, the hat was found to have sustained only a minor puncture wound—-due no doubt to its being a “Milan straw of superior quality.”

         Mother Nature had, however, reminded us that she was still in charge and could have made things a whole lot worse if she had really wanted to.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ann Peters on April 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Loved this, I can see you now. I remember the Easter that Mom made Sly and I pink wool capes. We thought we were so cute. You bring back good memories.

    Reply

  2. Posted by margaret cheney on March 31, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Such charm! The phrases that literally leap out. I especially loved Miss Cottingham pursuing you through hats “with the rapt patience of a stalking cat..”

    Reply

  3. Posted by margaret cheney on March 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you again, Lucille. I roll around in my head the felicitous phrase in which Miss Cottingham follows your mother through Hats with the rapt attention of a stalking cat. Please keep them coming!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Mary Wood on March 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Oh Lucille, this is your best one yet — I laughed all the way through. Do believe they used to make Sunday School teachers much wiser in those days. Thanks so much for sharing this great memory, Mary

    Reply

  5. Posted by marion on March 31, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Wonderful story to which many of us elders can relate.
    Thank you for such delightful essays.

    Reply

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