When it came to clothes for my sister and I, mother had one piece of advice: “Always make sure you are wearing clean underwear, in the event you are ever in an accident.” Our being fashionistas, not so much.
When items were on sale, it was a bonus. So, the day we went ‘back to school’ shopping and she spotted a pair of sandals on sale, she was pumped! White, they had faux stones of every color on the in-step strap as well as the strap circling the ankle.
“Oh child, aren’t these pretty?” Mother asked my sister, picking them up. “Oh look, they have them in your size.” She said, much to my sister’s horror. At nine, my sister already wore a size 9 shoe. Mother, being old-fashioned, insisted we wore socks with sandals to school and church.
In my mind’s eye, I could just see her wearing those sandals with her various colored knee socks, and being taunted by her school mates. I couldn’t hold in my laughter if my life depended on it.
My sister, probably also imagining it, started to cry which earned us both a scolding. She was scolded for having a tantrum since embarrassing our mother was a no-no. I was scolded because we weren’t supposed to make fun of each other. As tears rolled down my eyes from laughter, my sister cried even harder.
Frustrated, mother turned to her saying, “If you don’t like them, you don’t get any new shoes this year. You’ll just have to wear last year’s school shoes.” With that, the three of us exited the store.
While not rich by any means, we always had three sets of clothing. There were those we wore to school, those we played in and our church clothes, which the ‘old’ folks used to call ‘good clothes’.
‘Church’ clothes to my religiously pious parent, meant wearing hats. So every Easter, my sister and I each got a new hat. These were little, white straw affairs with a piece of elastic worn under the chin to keep them on. We wore them all spring and summer.
On one Easter, funds must have been tighter than usual. When a co-worker gave my mother a bag of clothes that her children had either outgrown or ‘flat-out refused’ to wear, she graciously accepted.
The miscellaneous items included two hats‒a dingy, off-white color one and one with a net-like fabric my mother called a veil, hung over the front. (A tell-tell sign that it was designed for a grown woman, not a child.)
Since I was the oldest at age 12, mother felt I should wear the one with the veil. “Oh child, don’t you look nice?” She asked, admiring my hat. Truth was, I felt like crying like my sister did that time in the store. “Lord, didn’t mom want me to have any friends?” I lamented to myself.
Off to Sunday school and church I went, wearing said hat with veil over two long, thick braids and what my mother described as a “Chinese’ bang. Did I mention I also wore eyeglasses, cats’ eyeglasses, and that the veil was draped over? I kept pushing the veil off my glasses so I could see.
Admittedly, there wasn’t a lot of teasing from the other kids. After all, we were in church. Sunday school and church finally ended. As my sister and I waited outside while mother shook hands with the Pastor and other church members, something horrible happened!
Suddenly, a strong gust of wind came up, blowing my hat-complete-with-veil, right off of my head. In the confusion that followed, it came to rest in a huge puddle, where I accidentally stumped on it, twice!
“Oh, your poor hat is ruined!” Mother wailed. “Explain to me how this happened.” I did as asked, wisely leaving out that I believed it was a miracle.
Alas, I survived many bullying episodes about my clothes, my shoes and my hair. (It’s a wonder that I’m not in therapy to this day.) Still, you know what they say:
That which does not kill you makes you stronger…(if you survive).
-Author Carol Gee, Retired Military Air Force Veteran Author|Columnist and Motivational Speaker
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