Last Sunday was Easter Sunday and somewhere in a town in America there were well-rehearsed Easter speeches and resurrection reenactments being performed. I am sure there were well-dressed children in pastel colored clothing too. I can envision girls in dresses with lace and ruffles and boys in suits with knotted ties. Last Sunday morning, church choirs likely sang traditional resurrection hymns. In my childhood church, Old Ship A.M.E. Zion, the cathedral choir, of which my mother was a member, always wore white robes Easter Sunday and the choir always sang “At the Cross” and “He arose.” Although my mother prided herself in wearing a crisply ironed choir robe in the Easter Sunday morning processional, she believed it was imperative that she, her children, and her grandchildren were properly attired for Easter Sunday. I always felt bad that her fancy spring Easter ensemble would be covered by the coveted choir robe. I was certain that all of the women in the choir had gone through great lengths to ensure that their Easter suits and dresses were perfect for such a special occasion. As I have said before, my mother was not an advocate of purchasing endless numbers of trendy garments for me. However, I could predict with absolute certainty at least four times a year that her shopping would focus on me – my birthday, back-to-school season, Christmas, and Easter.
As much as Easter shopping thrilled my mother, I didn’t always share her positive sentiments. In my younger years, she seemed focused on her visions and ideals of a girl “perfectly” attired for an Easter Sunday morning. While I loved the idea of me-focused shopping days, I had very little input in the targeted mission planned and navigated by Lola. Lola’s plan of action would produce a young princess adorned in a pastel colored dress that was at least knee length with either lace, ribbon, shiny buttons or the thing that frightened me the most (but made her rejoice) – that scratchy, itchy mess that made the skirt of the dress poof out in rounded perfection on a glorious Easter morn. It only took one time for me to wear one of those princess dresses to empower me to speak against that fashion statement for the rest of my life. Only an imagined princess in a fairy tale would find it charming or fanciful to itch for hours and be distracted from normal childhood priorities trying to figure out how to sit without crumpling your poufy princess dress. That scratchy tulle made the skirt so wide that I took up enough space for two kids in the Easter Sunday school speech line up. I hope she got a picture of me that Easter Sunday morning because I never remember allowing her to convince me to subject myself to be a vicarious vessel of her childhood dream again.
In addition to the itchy dress, she impressed upon me that patent leather was classic and necessary in a girl’s wardrobe. Lola would be ecstatic now to know that I learned the lesson of patent leather and applied it consistently over the years. My wardrobe has consistently included a patent leather bag or shoes most of my life. My daughter has wondered for years why I gravitate to the patent leather. Well, finally, I have the answer: Lola scarred me for life with the annual shopping experience at The Name Dropper shoe store.
We went to The Name Dropper every year for Easter shoes and the nice lady would bring boxes and boxes of varied styles of patent leather shoes for our inspection and sampling. The shoes were always first on the Easter ensemble checklist because I had the narrowest feet known to mankind. The challenge of fitting a child with an extremely narrow foot became super frustrating for the lady with the encouraging smile because I also owned the world’s flattest feet. Lola was a master planner when it came to the Easter outfit and like any master project manager she knew she had to be mindful of the strengths and unique characteristics of the human capital – me. If she didn’t get on the challenge of the long, narrow, flat feet early, her princess vision would be shoeless and happily barefoot. Montgomery was one of the larger cities in Alabama, but the patent leather shoe market was limited. We had to get to The Name Dropper first to claim my shoes. Most often I would have some version of a black patent shoe, but the year that my mother produced her princess vision, the nice lady presented a pair of white patent leather shoes in my size. I can only imagine the elation and celebration that must have created a spectacle of lights and an offering of angelic vocals in Mama’s head when she saw those shoes. Her soul undoubtedly rested in the amazing grace of the shoe gods.
My Easter shoes were intended to be worn until the next Easter unless my foot got longer or the weather too cold for the spring time shoe. I remember always feeling a sense of relief when we claimed my Easter shoes because I knew that my outfit would build around the shoes. I quickly learned that I would not only protest wearing a dress with itchy, scratchy netting, but I would guide Mama away from white patent leather shoes too. Wearing the white shoes, like the poufy dress, exposed me for who I really was or better yet who I was not. Wearing white patent leather shoes and a poufy dress may have invited compliments suitable for a princess, but clearly I lacked the capacity to sit like a princess, walk like a princess, or pretend like a princess that I just loved, loved playing the role of the Easter princess. In addition, the black scuff marks on the toe boxes of the white patent leather further separated me from the ranks of the dainty, delicate princess types. Not even professionally styled locks, clingy tights, white gloves and a cute woven purse made me believe that I was royalty.
My mother probably wished that I enjoyed dressing up as much as she enjoyed dressing and presenting me. Disappointing Mama wasn’t my objective, but I am sure that she was disappointed at some level. I am grateful that Mama permitted me to stand against living out someone else’s vision of me. Mama listened to my opinions on style and comfort after the “perfect” Easter outfit. Fortunately for me, Mama embraced my ideas and encouraged me to use my voice to express my opinions on fashion and holiday observance standards. Thankfully, Mama did not view my speech as an act of rebellion. She supported my expressions by assisting me in finding appropriate and suitable outfits that we both liked for many future Easter Sundays. And most importantly, she still considered me her princess.