When I was growing up, it was a big deal to go and pick out an Easter dress and new white shoes. It signaled the true beginning of spring. After an autumn and winter of dark colors and wearing heavy textures such as wool or corduroy, shopping for a spring dress meant a new beginning – and usually moving a size up from the shopping done before the previous start of the school year in late summer or early fall.
Now unwritten requirements stated that the Easter dress had to be a pastel shade – lilac, blush pink, mint green, tangerine, or a pale sunshine yellow. Little white gloves also added pizzazz to the outfit.
But the star of the show? Without a doubt, it was the Easter bonnet. No church ensemble would be complete without affixing an Easter bonnet on top of your head. The straw bonnets came dyed in various shades, with small flowers attached to them. I don’t ever remember wearing my Easter bonnet to church other than that one Sunday a year, but it definitely was a necessity.
As I got older, a white purse needed to be added – one that I could carry that spring and summer but absolutely, positively could NOT be caught dead using after Labor Day. The same went for the white shoes purchased for Easter. I’d wear them that spring and summer to church, but Texas fashion law proclaimed it a felony to wear white after Labor Day. That was fine with me. By then, the white shoes would be scuffed with dark marks along the sides and around the heels and getting tight around my toe-sies.
In my family the annual Easter photo of the kids also became a ritual. My mom would parade us out to the front driveway and we’d stand there in our finery, holding our Easter baskets in our arms, as we stood next to the car. For some reason, many family pictures back in the day were posed against the car as a backdrop. One of those oddities that I can’t explain. It just…was.
Church came first, followed by stopping by my grandparents for a brief visit so they could see us in all our Easter glory. Then we’d rush home, change clothes so we wouldn’t ruin our new attire, and return to a family dinner and Easter egg hunt at my grandparents’ house. Ham was de rigueur, along with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, tons of vegetables, and a bevy of pies. And rolls. With real butter. My mouth waters at the memory.
I repeated the same customs when raising my daughter, and I hope she’ll pass the same along to her own children someday. I haven’t shopped for an Easter dress for myself in years, preferring to wear whatever’s in my closet. No Easter bonnet has graced my head in a long, long time.
Maybe if I’m lucky, the Easter Bunny will think to provide one for me – or at least leave me tickets to attend the Kentucky Derby, something that’s been on my bucket list for years. If I am ever fortunate enough to be in Louisville that first Saturday in May, I’ll be sure I’m rocking a new pastel dress and white gloves.
And an amazing hat. An even better one than any Easter bonnet I ever wore.