“Easter Bunny Strut”
Whenever I think of Easter, I think of all those pretty dresses in the Monkey Wards catalog. And the straw hats and the white gloves. I’ve never seen anyone actually dressed like that in church on Easter Sunday, but it’s the picture I have in my head when Mama starts talking about Spring and Easter and new shoes.
“Mama, can I wear my new pants to Easter services?” I asked.
Mama didn’t even turn around. Or say anything. She was scrubbing the oven with her head inside and the rest of her hanging out and kind of wiggling. Daddy always smiled when he saw her like that.
Well, it was worth a try. It was a month before Easter Sunday and Mama was already getting all of us outfitted for what Daddy called, “The Bunny Strut.” Mama always made him change it to the “Annual Easter Parade,” but us kids knew what Daddy meant. All those regular folk trying to act like they were going to be in a fancy movie. And we were supposed to act just like them. Nope, not for me.
I hated having to wear dresses. It wasn’t only the dresses, it was all the stuff that went with them. The white socks with pink, scalloped tops. One of Mama’s white slips that was always too long, so Mama had to baste it to not show under the dress. The worst part was having Mama always fussing with my hair, Could I help it that my brown hair was as fine as a baby’s and just liked to stay stuck to my head? Having to sleep on curlers was just not right. Boys never had to do that.
“Mama, could I wear my cowboy boots with my dress?”
“But Mama, my boots have some pink in them, and they’ll match my new dress.”
She pulled herself out of the oven. She carefully picked up the dish pan, which was full of very dirty water and an old sponge.
“Sis, we are not going to argue about what you wear on Easter,” said Mama.
Oops, when Mama used that tone of voice, I knew I had better just nod and agree to whatever she said. Even Daddy knew when Mama wouldn’t change her mind.
“I’ve ordered an Easter dress for you. You’ve gotten old enough that you should have a store-bought dress this year,” said Mama.
She was cleaning the dish pan; not looking at me sitting at the kitchen table behind her. Mama knew that besides having to sit with my legs uncrossed, my hands in my lap and not talking, the next worse thing was to have to wear a dress.
“A new dress means new shoes. Sunday school shoes. We’ll get them a little bigger so you won’t outgrow them so fast.” She paused for a moment while her hands swirled the dishwater in the big sink, cleaning everything off of the sides before it went down the drain. Then she added, “And you can’t wear the new shoes to school. I don’t want you playing tether ball in Sunday School shoes.”
“Can we get black, shiny shoes this year?” It seemed to me that white shoes caused all kinds of problems. The worst being that I had to get out the white shoe polish every Saturday and try to make them all new again, which of course, everyone knew they were old and just pretended to be new by getting some polish on them.
“Those kind of shoes are for older, young ladies,” said Mama.
“When will I be old enough to get them?” I asked.
“When the time is right,” said Mama.
I hated that answer. It meant that Mama wouldn’t let me get a hold of a notion that later she would regret. So, she just kind of didn’t give me a real answer.
“Can we at least get the white ones that don’t have any bows on them?”
“Yes, darling, we can get you very plain, white shoes,” Mama said.
Whew. At least I didn’t have to wear real girlie looking shoes. White shoes with white socks was bad enough, but when you had to wear them with bows, well it was just too city girl for me.
The boys looked kind of different in their white shirts and ties. My big brother had a regular man’s tie on, but my little brother had one of those clip on bow ties.
He kept playing with so it was always crooked. Daddy or Mama would automatically reach down and straighten it as they passed by. Then he would fiddle with it again and a big hand would appear and give it another twist. Somehow neither of my parents seemed to realize how often they were flipping his bow tie into being level. But my little brother did. He was grinning and had that gleam of a look that said, “gotcha.”
“Okay, looks like we’ve got everything done on time. Better get in the car and get to church,” Mama said.
We all filed through the back door, headed for the station wagon.
Mama smiled, “My, all my children look so nice this morning.”
Daddy said, “Watch were you step. It’s still muddy. Wouldn’t want nice clean mud to get on your new clothes.”
All three of us got into the back seat, with me in the middle. Why did I always end up in the middle? Why couldn’t my little brother have to give up his window once in a while?
As we were backing out of the driveway, Daddy asked “Sis, you got through with your chores really fast this morning. Did you remember to put water in the chick’s pan?”
My heart started to beat a little harder as I softly said, “I don’t think so.”
The car stopped so suddenly that we bounced against the back of the seats.
Daddy changed gears and pulled forward.
“We’ll wait right here until you get the chicks watered.”
“But Daddy, I’m all dressed up,” I said.
“Then I guess you had better be very careful,” said Daddy.
My big brother got out of the car, so I could get out.
It was awfully quiet. Everyone was looking straight ahead and not talking.
I quickly ran for the water bucket and filled it from the hose.
I didn’t put too much in, because I knew I would slop it right over the side and onto my new, store-bought, pink dress. My first dress that Mama didn’t make. My first grown up dress. And my new white shoes that didn’t have any bows. And my all white socks, without any pink scallops on them. I think part of me was afraid that if I got anything of my new things dirty, I’d have to go in the house and clean them. I didn’t want to have to polish my shoes before they were even old.
I admit, I didn’t fill the chicks pan all the way to the top. But Daddy didn’t say I had to fill to the top, just to put water in it. It was enough water to hold the chicks until we got home from church.
When I had finished with the watering, I headed back to the car, where I had left everyone just waiting for me to finish my morning chores.
But everyone had not waited in the car. Daddy had gotten out and returned to the house.
“Sis, stay where you are,” Daddy said, standing at the edge of the driveway, one of his hands behind his back. Then he turned and shouted at the car, “Boys, Mama, would you all come and stand with Sis?”
“Well, since we’re going to be late anyway, I decided we ought to just get a picture of our very own ‘Annual Easter Bunny Strut’,” Daddy said.
Mama didn’t look too happy with Daddy, but she did get out of the car, reached up and poked at her pillbox hat. Once she had it where she wanted, she straightened you-know-who’s bow tie. My little brother stared straight ahead, with a gleam in his eye and a grin on his face.
My big brother never smiled at those times, he said it wasn’t “cool” to look happy in pictures. But he did lick his fingers and tried to force the almost curl of his hair into the center of his forehead. I smiled and didn’t tug at anything. Daddy always liked my biggest smiles in pictures.
Many years later, when I went away to college, I took that morning’s picture went with me. Looking at it never failed to make me smile. Just think: if I had watered those baby chicks when I was supposed to, we would have never had a picture of my first real store bought dress in our “Annual Easter Bunny Strut.”
PS: This story is from a collection of stories that I have written about my childhood. Three volumes of “Growing Up with Grandma” have now accumulated for our children and grandchildren. I have taken liberties with “fictional license,” but the main story remains true to my memory.