The Easter Dress
Easter Sunday was a big day at our house. This day represented many things to us. As Christians, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. My parents explained the differences and the similarities in the Christian and secular celebrations of the day.
“Easter represents a new life in Christ.” Daddy explained. Mother elaborated on the subject. “Easter is always in the Spring. The flowers begin to peek their heads through the warm earth, and the trees extend their branches to welcome freshly sprouted leaves. Wearing new clothes reminds us that we have a fresh start, through Jesus. We remove the old clothes and put on the new ones, just like we do when we accept Christ into our hearts. We put away the sinful nature and experience rebirth.” I listened intently. In my five-year old brain, I comprehended as much as I could, but my inquiring mind wanted to know “Then, why do we dye Easter eggs?” “Because, they are pretty colors, just like the flowers. Now go outside and play!” Mother insisted.
My dress was yellow, dotted swiss. It had a crinoline that was stiff and crisp. When I sat down, it made a crunching sound. I felt girl power flowing through every fiber of my being, when I tried on that dress. I think it cost a whole $3.00! I couldn’t wait for Easter Sunday to wear that dress. My frilly, lace trimmed, socks would accessorize just right.
On Good Friday, we colored the eggs. Meticulously we dropped the eggs into the dye and experimented with various color combinations. It was great fun for me and my sisters. All the eggs were counted and carefully placed on Mother’s finest platter, which had been surfaced with Easter grass. We spent hours studying the rainbow of colors.
Saturday night was spent shampooing and curling hair, shining shoes, and searching through drawers to find a pair of white gloves that matched. All the women had to have white gloves. Since there were several females in our household, gloves were as much a staple as a loaf of bread. The last preparation, before retiring for a night of restless sleep on those awful, foam curlers, was to put our Easter baskets at the foot of our beds. All of this in hopes that the Easter Bunny would visit us during the night.
It didn’t take long to spend the night at our house on Saturday nights. We had to get up early for all eight of us to have time in the single bathroom and to eat breakfast. We awoke to the aroma of Mother’s homemade biscuits drifting through the house. The Easter Bunny had indeed hopped through our house, delivering chocolate eggs, Peeps, jelly beans, and more colored eggs. I could hardly contain my excitement.
I jumped to my feet, calling to my sister “Nene, Nene, look! The Easter Bunny came last night!” Hopping down from the top bunk, she squealed “What did you get?” We compared our treats and slipped a couple of them into our mouths, giggling the entire time. “Girls! Come eat breakfast so that you can get dressed. We don’t want to be late for church.” Daddy implored.
We all gathered at the breakfast table. Mother already had a ham in the oven and desserts lined the counter, where she had worked into the night hours to bake. Coconut cake, German chocolate cake, chocolate pie, there were lots of choices. Breakfast was hurried and not interrupted with much conversation, other than the occasional comment on one’s Easter basket.
I needed a little help getting ready. Donna buttoned up my dress, and I took my place in line for Mother to fix my hair. How in the world she got four girls, herself, breakfast, and lunch ready every day awes me. Sonny and Curtis were old enough to get ready without assistance. I could hear them fighting over the razor in the bathroom. “Curt, stop it!”, Sonny pleaded. “Sonny, I need to get ready, too. Give me the razor!”, Curtis insisted. “Boys! Cut that out and get ready!” Dad’s speech was stern. “I’d better not have to come in there!” he added, after a few more spiffs between the two of them.
About this time, there was a knock on the door. “Hey brother, come on in.”, I heard Daddy’s bass voice say. It was Ben Thomas. He was another one of Dad’s close friends. “Just stoppin’ by to see how the Payne family’s doing on this Easter Sunday.” Ben’s voice was a familiar one. I ran into the living room to see him and flung myself into his open arms. He had stooped to greet me. What I didn’t notice was the cigarette in his hand. As he gathered me into his arms, his cigarette lit fire to my delicate, dotted swiss. The hole in my sleeve was encircled with a black singe mark. I was devastated! All the hugs, and kisses, and “it doesn’t show” condolences couldn’t console my broken heart. Ben Thomas had ruined my Easter dress! My girl power dress had a cigarette burn in it.
Mother put a white sweater on me. I didn’t want anyone at church to see the hole, so I kept the sweater on, and focused on the scrunch and fullness of my crinoline. The hole didn’t cripple the priss in my step that day. I wore my white gloves and carried myself with pride that day.
After all, it was a fresh start.