Front Page
Crow’s-Feet Chronicles: Easter was sew-sew with Mama
By Cindy Baker Burnett
Apr 20, 2014
Print this page
Email this article

Mama could “put the pedal to the treadle" and create the prettiest Easter frocks in town for my sister and me. It wasn't uncommon to hear the sewing machine humming during the night when counting sheep didn't work. All she asked was that we accompany her to the fabric store to select the pattern and material and to be available later for adjustments.

If my sister Kathy and I were too busy to go shopping, Mama retaliated by buying the scratchiest, stiffest, and most abrasive steel organza that the fabric store could sell without a permit. But the strongest, most industrial-strength pleats weren't tough enough for Mama. She'd mix a vat of Faultless cement to further galvanize the collars and sleeve edgings. How could I forget the navy dotted Swiss fortresses we wore on Easter Sunday in 1952? As usual, we wanted to watch "My Friend Flicka" on TV instead of stroking the bolts in the piece goods store with our mom.

Mama had finished our assault dresses, except for the hems, by the Wednesday before Easter. Kathy was available for her fitting, so Mama put the finishing touches on the weapon of mass destruction. But, I was too busy holding kiddy court with the neighborhood riff-raff to be bothered with such nonsense. I was glad to skip that torturous ritual of standing perfectly still while Mama measured the hem with a yardstick and prompted, "Turn" every few seconds to get me to move another smidgen. It took forever to make a complete circle while Mama measured and pinned a gathered skirt, inch by flippin’ inch. In my absence, Mama had to guess at my hem and stitch it accordingly.

On Easter morning, we were lowered into our armored tankers and told to be still so Mama could yank our hair back into tight, slant-eyed hairdos. It was the “tie that binds” I suppose. I don't know what hurt more---my eyelids being pulled backward toward Baja Oklahoma or the razor-like Swiss dots rubbing the tender finish from my skin. We soon built up a resistance, though. We called it The Rash.

As I sat in the pew on Easter morning between my brother Tim and my mother, I mistakenly thought I was a victim to Tim's painful “needling.” The first few times he poked me with a pin, I flinched and whispered vile threats. I squirmed to scoot closer to Mama and farther from Tim. Ouch! The next time he poked me, I slammed a pointed elbow into his scrawny chest. He knew better than to scream out, so he bit the back of his hand to muffle his agony. That painful Pavlovian conditioning continued through four stanzas of "Why Should I Linger," the sermon, passing of the collection plate, and a repeat chorus of "Up From the Grave He Arose."

By the time the altar call came, Tim wore variegated hues of black and blue, and I was a festered pincushion. As I bowed my head during the closing prayer, I opened my eyes in my usual defiance. There along the hemline were shiny pinheads. Upon closer inspection, I realized that Mama hadn't removed the pins from the hem after she stitched it. Ah-HAH---More of Mama's punishment for being absent during the fitting torture.

Mama looked innocent when I whispered, "Mama, is it okay to take out the pins now?"

"Well, I'll swan!" she said, as she began removing the pins, "How forgetful of me!" (Yeah, right!)

Because Tim was the youngest child and our parents’ fair-haired favorite, he was nestled in the front seat of the car between Mama and Daddy on the way to our grandmother’s house after church. With stilled breathing, Kathy and I gingerly oscillated our eyes from side to side to keep the serrated organza blades from digging deeper into the raw grooves in our necks.

Kathy and I were the walking wounded for many Easters, but we healed up and haired over nicely. We hadn't seen dotted Swiss in years . . . until recently. She and I entered a fabric store and were ambushed by a display table with yards of stinging dotted Swiss scorpions in every color.

We “bolted.”

cindybaker@cableone.net