Friday, April 6, 2012

That Easter Day Was Bright With Crinoline and Tulips

My love of crinoline petticoats started at a young age

Yesterday I walked through the giant discount store shopping for plastic knives and folding chairs for Sunday’s family gathering.  However, the children’s clothing section stopped me for a moment.  I briefly fingered a white dotted Swiss bodice over overlapping layers of lace trim in a skirt enhanced with a bit of crinoline.  The empire waist was a peach sash set off with a large peach and yellow flower pinned to the satin trim.  Sometimes I think that Easter Sunday was invented so little girls would dress in crinoline and lace, with ruffled socks and black patent Mary Janes on their feet.

My mother had four girls to dress each Easter.  That was the time of year when we bought our new patent-leather church shoes that would see us through the rest of the year.  Each Sunday morning I’d pull out a Kleenex and the Vaseline to work that clear jelly into my shoes until they gleamed.  With four girls, Mom couldn’t always afford the glamorous Easter dresses on display in the department stores.  The ones that flounced all the way out to there and that were made in colors that looked like a bouquet of tulips out of Mom’s garden announcing Spring’s arrival.  They came decorated with smocking, or lace, or a rainbow of grosgrain ribbon.

I loved the years we got a store-bought Easter outfit because that frequently included a new petticoat.  I always chose a dress with a large bow tied in back, with the trailing tails resting on a skirt that had a diameter that could have easily been 3 feet.  I’d top it off with a wide-brimmed straw Easter bonnet decorated with a matching organdy bloom or other colorful trim, all held on over my Easter curls with an elastic strap under the chin.
Note the trés fashionable white gloves

But we didn’t suffer in the years Mom couldn’t give us store-bought dresses.  Those years we’d hit the fabric stores.  Mom would find a single McCall’s or Butterick pattern that looked good on all of us.  We would each get to choose our own material, and then she would stay up to ungodly hours for weeks before the big day, sewing four matching outfits.  My favorite ever was the year she made us simple sheath dresses with matching spring coats.  I chose yellow for the coat and skirt of the dress.  The bodice was a white with yellow vertical stripes.
Easter in yellow

It’s astounding to look back and realize what Mom undertook to make us look so beautiful when we lined up on the sidewalk in front of the house for our annual Easter photo – bonnets and Easter baskets and white gloves included.  I slept through her labors.  And it wasn’t just at Easter I did that.  After working in an office all day, cooking dinner, seeing us through homework and Girl Scouts and music lessons and then to bed, she began the third shift of her day.  Perhaps she made the cupcakes one of us needed for a class party.  Or as I headed of to sleep I might leave her sitting on the floor of the living room, straight pins in her mouth as she draped fabric over a chair and chalked the lines she would cut and sew to make a new slipcover.  Or my bedtime might mark the beginning of the never-ending laundry cycle for a family of six.  Or she was brushing all the mats and tangles out of the long hair of our dog, Pandy.

For Christians, the weekend from Good Friday to Easter is a time of remembrance, reflection, and ultimately celebration.  My sisters’ families and mine still come together to feast on that Sunday, although my sister Melinda finally said aloud this year that we should stop saying we’re getting together for Easter because the only thing marking the holiday is the candy dish filled with pastel M&M’s and the number of Peeps we’ve eaten leading up to the holiday.  I’m the only one still going to church regularly.  We should just say we’re having a birthday lunch because her birthday usually falls sometime around Holy Week and our meal always includes a big coconut-iced cake and candles for her.

Although she may think we’re not celebrating Easter anymore, she’s wrong.  We will remember the eggs Mom boiled perfectly so we could dip them in a solution of vinegar and food coloring.  We’ll remember the dinners she made on that day that were shared with grandmothers, grandfathers, beloved aunts.  We’ll laugh over every picture we took on that front sidewalk and our favorite Easter couture.  We’ll reflect on what a blessed childhood we had and celebrate the family we’ve been given.  With a bounty of spring tulips on the table we’ll sing (at least in our hearts) “That Easter day with joy was bright.”

Do you have any favorite Easter (of Passover) memories?  What is your favorite food or ritual you practice for the holiday?  If you celebrate neither of these holidays, do you have a favorite ritual or food to celebrate that winter has finally left and spring as come?  Share all in the comments box and have a beautiful weekend of remembrance, reflection, and celebration in your own fashion.

And today I’m also remembering a few blog posts that brightened my past week:

"Never let today's urgencies rob you of today's chance to seed your future."  Read the post by Scrollwork to see what led her to such wisdom.

Tami Clayton eats ice cream bigger than her head and panics over child safety issues at a playground in Morocco.

Nancy Hinchliff interviews Teresa Rhyne about her soon-to-be-published book The Dog Lived (And So Will I) about cancer diagnoses she and her four-legged friend shared.

Leah Singer is the uber-creative Mom I never could be.  This time it’s about including your children in Passover planning.


Nancy Hinchliff said...

Julie, Thanks for much for the mention. Very nice of you.

And while I was here, I read your Easter post. Loved it, as well of the charming photos. That one at the to with the Sunday best Easter dress on was just too much!!

Tami Clayton said...

The photos of you are adorable! Thank you for sharing your Easter memories. Your mom sounds like she was pretty amazing.

Thanks for the mention! I appreciate it. :)

Scrollwork said...

Oh, Julie, I was so moved by your account of your mom's tireless devotion.

It lifted my heart to read that my post was among those that brightened your week. Thank you!

Karen said...

I too have three sisters and many pictures like these - hats, gloves, dresses with crinolines. How proud your mother must have been of her pretty girls!

Anonymous said...

Like you I have 3 sisters as well as 1 brother stuck right in the middle. Easter was the one time of year when we all got new clothes and the one Sunday when we looked forward to going to church simply because we wanted to show off our new clothes. Hope you have a great weekend!

hmcmullin said...

Lovely outfits. And you didn't have to wear overshoes, either!

monicastangledweb said...

What an amazing mother! You all look so pretty in your matching outfits. Reminds me a little of my mother. She too loved sewing dresses for me and my sister and just hearing those words again--Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity--warms my heart with fond memories.

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