Easter Dresses

I woke up Easter morning to a picture my brother sent me of my baby niece dressed up in her special Easter outfit. She was crouching down, with the white skirt of her dress gently touching the floor and covering her legs like a tent, surrounding her little body. A white cardigan covered her tiny shoulders. A big, white-brimmed hat sat on top of her head. She looked adorable all dressed up in her Easter outfit—her stockings, her dress, her cardigan, her hat. But the expression on her face in the picture was even more so, for it was one of discomfort, anxiety, misery. I imagined how she must have felt—being suffocated by all that skirt, feet hurting from the stiffness of the new dress shoes, the hat falling over her eyes whenever she moved her head too quickly. Actually, I really didn’t have to imagine. I remember those days.

I hid from my mother every Easter morning as a little girl. Being the tomboy that I was, the last thing I wanted to do on Easter Sunday was wear a dress, let alone stockings and a hat, and if I was really lucky, white gloves that inhibited my grasp on everything I touched. I had plenty of reasons to argue my defense against her. For one, I worried about more important things, like finding more eggs than my brothers in the egg hunt my parents used to set up for us around the house, so I could rub in their faces they lost the hunt to a girl, let alone their baby sister. I had chocolate to eat. I had new toys with which to play. The last thing I needed was my skirt getting tangled in the Tonka truck my parents snuck into my Easter basket. My mother always ended up winning the battle, though, and I’d sulk in defeat and slowly make my way into the bathroom to change.

The dress I remember the most arrived the Easter I was five years old. I remember sitting in my room after my mother spent the entire morning curling my hair, watching as my mother unzipped the covering carefully containing the dress. As she unzipped, I saw the flowers—big, red, pink ones that bursted through the white underlay of the dress. The skirt of it had extra layers, so it was nice and full and twirled when I walked. There was lace on the top and around the sleeves, along with a perfectly tied and stitched pink bow by my neckline. She smiled as she pulled out the dress, and I cringed. I changed as my mother marched to my closet and returned carrying the matching hat in one hand and something else I couldn’t recognize in the other. This was the Easter with the gloves.

When I look at old family pictures, it seems like we only have photographs of that particular Easter. I look miserable in all of them, filled with anxiety and discomfort as I stood on top of the fireplace and tightly grasped my brothers’ hands. My curls dropped down to my shoulders, my white dress shoes played with the flash of the camera, bouncing the light off them. A pout, I would call my facial expression. It was probably because I lost the hunt that year on account of having to be careful not to ruin my pretty Easter dress. I lost by one egg.

There were some benefits to playing along with my mother on Easter. She’d promise brunch after church, and I’d be allowed to take it off before we made our rounds visiting the aunts and uncles and cousins. If I had the patience to wear it all day, my mother promised the boardwalk, since Easter was always the first weekend the boardwalk was officially opened.

That year I played with my gloves all throughout mass. I spent majority of the time running my fingers over the brown pew we sat on to make the crisp white of the tips dirtier. We ate at the Triangle Restaurant in North Wildwood that year, although it’s no longer there now. I had a BLT, and for behaving so well in church, I was rewarded with chocolate milk. We spent two hours eating with family members on my mother’s side of the family, before leaving and spending the rest of the afternoon with family members on my father’s side. I wore the dress with the pink flowers the entire day, even to the boardwalk. My excitement for the boardwalk trumped my misery for the dress, and after a while, I couldn’t even tell I was wearing it. The skirt fell after a while, and the lace didn’t seem to itch so much anymore, and I didn’t even mind the perfectly tied and stitched bow at my neckline. I left the hat behind though, and of course the gloves. Especially the gloves.

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