Remember the ugly and the laughter
The ugliest that I’ve even been was on Easter Sunday the year I was 12 years old.
Mama had promised me that I wouldn’t have to make the annual pilgrimage to Montgomery to get me a store-bought Easter dress.
I could get it right there in Brundidge at Belcher’s Dry Goods Store.
Even the thoughts of that sent me into the deepest depths of gloom.
Easter Sunday was the one Sunday in the year that everybody – everybody – had a new Sunday outfit.
The girls, the boys, the women and the men.
Now, these weren’t just the normal Sunday clothes. No. They were frilly, fancy Sunday clothes.
Little girls had to wear new, shiny paten leather shoes with a strap right across the top of their feet and socks with lace around the turned-down cuff. And, to top off the new Easter outfit, we had to wear gloves and a hat on our heads and carry a pocketbook – as if we had something to go in it.
I didn’t like to wear frilly dresses, and I surely didn’t want everybody looking at me in one.
But almost as bad as wearing the Easter outfit was having to go all the way to Montgomery to get it.
I didn’t like to try on dresses and then come out of the dressing room and turn around and around in front of a three-way mirror and let everybody look at you and say what they thought about how you looked.
Either the dress didn’t hang right or the color didn’t do anything for me or it wasn’t long enough to cover my knobby knees.
“The sash makes her look sway back,” the clerk would say. “Now that she’s beginning to fill out, she needs a little more fullness up top.” Stuff that nobody should say about a girl in her presence.
I was proud that I wouldn’t have to undergo that embarrassment of parading around in front of those city store clerks.
So, Mama and I went up to Belcher’s to look at the dresses.
The front of the store had a wood floor that creaked when you walked.
But in the back, where the dresses were, you had to walk up a couple of high steps onto this raised concrete floor – kind of like a stage. That was the dress and baby clothes section.
Mama started looking through the rack and pulled out a couple of things she liked. I didn’t like either one ,but I was willing to get one or the other just to get out of there. The dressing room was about the size of a broom closet with a mirror on one side. There was barely enough room to bend over and you couldn’t step back far enough to see yourself except from the knees up.
So you had to come out and look in the mirror on the outside of the door if you wanted to see how the dress hung or how it looked with your shoes. I didn’t care either way. I was trying to get undressed when Miss Florence tapped on the door. “When you get the dress on, come out and let me see how pretty you look,” she said.
I wasn’t going to look pretty and I wasn’t coming out. But before I could get the dress on, she jerked open the door. “Do you need any help?”
I squealed and covered up everything you can cover up with two hands and a knee. I decided right then and there that the two-piece outfit was going to be my Easter outfit. I was not about to let her open the door on my half-naked self again. It was an ugly, moss green outfit. The skirt was straight with a kick pleat and had a matching Mamie Eisenhower jacket with a pink rose pin to dress it up. Instead of a hat, Mama bought me a plastic headband with fuzzy, felt flowers attached.
“Oh, don’t you look pretty,” Miss Florence said.
I didn’t. My granny made me a purse. She covered a face-powder box with scrap material. It had a drawstring at the top and some of the same tacky artificial flowers on it that I had on my head. I was the ugliest thing I had ever seen and that image was captured forever by a Brownie camera.
Bubba was dressed in white shorts, shoes and socks and a gray and white seersucker jacket. He was topped off with a white cloth cap. He was almost as ugly as I was. Mama stood us by our old green Hudson car and took our picture.
Aunt Eleanor wanted the picture. She loved to joke around and she had a lot of fun with that ugly picture. She kept it on a table in the hall and I begged her to throw it away but she didn’t. It stayed there for many years. The last time I saw Aunt Eleanor was in the spring of 1983. We were living in Ohio and visited her while we were home for Easter. Aunt Eleanor had been sick for a long time but she had not lost her sense of humor or her love of fun.
“Look in there on the hall table and bring me some lemon drops,” she said to me. The bag of lemon drops was resting against that photo of the ugliest day of my life. I laughed and took her the lemon drops. Aunt Eleanor laughed along with me. I can still hear her laughter that day and feel her wonderful love at our last moment in time together. What a special Easter memory.