Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Easter Dresses


(c)Linda Goodman 2013

When my family lived in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, we attended the Stone Mountain Primitive Baptist Church. As in most Christian churches, Easter was a special occasion. The service began at 10:00 a.m. with the Congregation singing resurrection hymns, such as He Lives and Up From the Grave He Arose. After the hymns, the preacher would preach a sermon about the empty tomb. Each year he would tell the story from a different perspective. At the sermon's end, individuals would be invited to “ give their testimonies.” That usually took a while. The service would end at around 12:30.

For the next half hour, while the ladies of the church put together the covered dishes that had been brought to church for our Easter dinner, we children hunted Easter eggs. The Easter Bunny laid colored eggs, so they were not hard to find.

We did not wear fancy Easter clothes at our church in the mountains. No one could afford them. We wore the same clothes we wore every day, making sure that they were clean and presentable.

When my family moved to the city, my parents stopped going to church. I, however, joined other neighborhood children in attending Asbury Methodist Church on Deep Creek Boulevard in Portsmouth, Virginia. This church had the convenience of being right across the street from my apartment building.

My first Easter at Asbury Methodist Church was one that I will long remember. When my best friend Lori Ann, whose family always included me as one of its own for church functions, saw me that fine April Sunday, she blurted out, “Linda, where is your Easter dress?”

Lori Ann was wearing a pink chiffon dress with a full skirt that ballooned over a thick, white crinoline Her black patent leather shoes had been replaced with white ones. That did not disturb me, as Lori Ann always wore fancy dresses.

That Easter day, however, I looked around the church and noticed that every little girl there was wearing a fancy dress over a crinoline and white patent leather shoes. Their mothers, I noticed, were all wearing pastel suits and high heels. Pinned to their suit collars were corsages of carnations, roses, or orchids.

I was wearing a plain, light blue dress and scuffed brown loafers. I had never felt embarrassed at Asbury before, but I did then.

“L - Lori Ann,” I stuttered, “I – I forgot it was Easter.” I could not tell her the truth; that I did not possess such finery to wear.

Lori Ann was incredulous. “How could you forget Easter? It's the second most important holiday fo the year!”

As I sat beside Lori Ann during Sunday School, my faced burned. I was so ashamed of my plain attire that I could not concentrate on the lesson that our teacher, Mrs. Hilton, was sharing with us that morning. All I could think of was that I was different, that I would never fit into city life. I decided that as soon as Sunday School was over, I would sneak out the back door of the church and go home. I could not bear to sit through the worship service as an object of pity in my plain dress.

As soon as class was over, I quickly ran out of the room and raced toward the church's back door. Before I could make it through to the outside, however, I heard someone calling my name. I knew the voice well. It belonged to Mrs. Wade, Lori Ann's mother.

“Linda, where are you off to?” she asked, catching up with me. “ I have something for you. It's an Easter corsage.”

She slipped an elastic band around my wrist. Attached to the band were three lavender orchids. The glorious flowers covered my arm almost to the elbow.

“Oh, my!” I sighed. “It's beautiful. I've never had anything like it, Mrs. Wade.”

“We match!” she announced, and she held up her arm so that I could see that she had the same corsage that I had.

I noticed something else, as well. Mrs. Wade, who usually wore the most beautiful suits in the entire congregation, was wearing a plain brown shift with a brown leather belt around her waist. On her feet were penny loafers.

She took me by the hand and we walked into the sanctuary, where we worshiped together. I no longer felt embarrassed or ashamed. I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

I was a teen before I realized the full extent of what Mrs. Wade had done for me that day. Thanks to her, I no long felt out of place. She had become my kindred spirit.

I never got to thank her. She died of breast cancer three years after that Easter. But I have thanked God for putting Mrs. Wade in my life. And I am sure that He has passed that on to her.

14 comments:

  1. Oh Linda! That was absolutely beautiful. You had me in tears. Real Christianity in action. A memorable story! Thank you!

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  2. Great story - But I would like to know what you wore to Church on Easter the next year?

    And for the record,Lori Ann had it wrong when she said Easter is the second most important Holiday. Christmas may be the most important holiday of the American civic culture, but Easter tells the core of the Christian foundational story, and it is the central Christian holiday.

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    1. Arnie, the next year I wore my first real Easter dress, bought at Roses Five and Dime Store. It was blue chiffon. No crinolin

      Linda

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    2. After my marriage I attended church with my mother in law as my husband had to work on Sunday. I was a country girl and felt out of place at the city church. My car broke down and I attended a small country church with my neighbors, with my three small sons. What a difference. When, in the last few years, people from the trailer court next to our church started coming to church, dressed in every day clothes, my husband, who now had
      sundays off, usually dressed in suit, tie, etc. but dropped this and dressed in dress pants, shirt, no tie, and sometimes just a slip over sweater, instead of jacket. And folks felt comfortable coming to our church because all were well. God looks into the heart, not what we have on our bodies.
      Caroline Wilson

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  3. What a lovely, heartfelt story. Vintage Linda!

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  4. Oh mom! This is an amazing and awesome story. You are so talented in your writing...I feel like I was there with you!

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  5. Beautifully touching story. Made me remember those Easter dresses, shoes, gloves, and hats. And especially the corsages. It was always such a special day. And for you it was even more special. What a beautiful gift you received.

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    1. A beautiful gift, indeed. Thanks for reading, Debi.

      Linda

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  6. You have given me another reason to remember the season of Easter is to extend understanding and compassion to those around us. Thank You
    Roy Bauschatz

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  7. So good to hear from you, Roy. I still think about your story of the boots you found after your father's death. Hope you are still sharing it.

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  8. Just a beautiful story. Brought back a flood of memories. Thanks so much for sharing your stories!

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    1. Thank you for reading, Angelyn. And thanks for the feedback.

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