Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Easter to Remember

I was a tomboy and Easter was not my favorite holiday. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy anything about Easter. I liked to dye eggs. I liked to get up early to see what the Easter Bunny had left in my basket. I liked to hear my Sunday School teacher read the Easter story. And I loved singing the Easter hymns, especially the one that says “Up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.”

So, what was it that I didn’t like about Easter? The clothes. The clothes started to torment me a month before Easter when the endless shopping trips started. I feel privileged to have had my childhood in the 1950's, America’s Golden Age. But that era wasn’t free of insane notions and one of those notions was that everybody in the family had to have fancy new clothes for Easter - right down to your underwear. It was usually impossible to get all of this on one shopping trip so you had to start at least a month in advance along with everybody else in America. And believe me, it seemed like all of America was shopping in our town. It was almost impossible to find a place to park on either side of our main street. The stores were so crowded that you had to wait in line for a dressing room.

My mother may not have enjoyed the crowded stores, but she did enjoy getting new clothes. She had given up a career as a department store fashion buyer to get married and raise me - a tomboy who cared nothing about clothes. I must have been a disappointment in that respect. Mama came from a family of seven where each child had what he or she needed, but not much extra. She could never understand why her only child didn’t like to shop.

One particular Easter stands out in my mind. I was eight years old. The shopping trips that year were particularly annoying because they took me away from my two new white kittens - Fuzzy and Fluffy. But at length the new outfit was assembled. It consisted of a sleeveless dress with a full skirt and a fitted bodice. Under it I wore my new slip and frilly panties. My straw hat was round with streamers down the back. I had white shoes and lacy socks. I wore white gloves and carried a little white purse with a lacy handkerchief inside.

Mama thought I looked adorable - except for my skinned shins. I loved to climb trees and always had a few scrapes and scratches. Fuzzy and Fluffy had added to my collection of blemishes that year. Three well-placed band-aids hid the worst scrapes on my shins and at last we paraded out the front door to go to church.

Mama and I waited on the front steps while Daddy went to start the car. When he turned the key in our 1946 Plymouth something didn’t sound quite right. He turned the car off, got out, and raised the hood. He peered inside. Then - to my horror - he lifted Fuzzy’s lifeless body from the engine-works of the old Plymouth.

I cried. I screamed. I didn’t bother to take my lacy hanky out and wipe my tears. They tumbled down my face onto my dress. Mama and Daddy tried to comfort me. They explained that a belt had hit Fuzzy when Daddy started the car. He had died instantly and felt absolutely no pain. And - had I forgotten? I still had Fluffy.

None of this information had the desired calming effect. I continued to bellow until a most unusual sound reached our ears. We had never heard anything like it. It whirred, it clacked, it roared, and it grew steadily louder. It seemed to be coming from the highway in front of our house. Daddy put Fuzzy’s little body down and followed Mama and me to the picket fence that marked the boundary of our front yard.

To our great astonishment an airplane was rolling down the highway as if it belonged there where we were accustomed to seeing cars go! Although it was a small plane, its wings spanned more than the width of the two-lane road. The pilot waved gaily as he passed our house and continued on toward town.

In spite of all this excitement, we arrived at church on time. Fuzzy had a nice funeral that afternoon, Fluffy and I spent many happy times together, and - to this day - I don’t know what became of the pilot and his airplane.

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