In My Easter Bonnet

By Marsha Tennant

In the South, Easter Sunday is serious business. I will admit that it has gone through changes and transformations in styles and attitudes. What we wear for this day of resurrection and rebirth requires planning and strategic shopping. Some families still shop at the same stores (if the stores survived) or purchase the same labels. Of all the celebrations, Easter seems to hold more tightly to familial traditions. Drive by a church on this particular Sunday and one will witness an array of color, creativity and old-fashioned design.

Church going is more casual now. “Ya’ll come” invites everyone to share the sense of community and doctrine. The dress code is no longer rigid. I can remember hearing my mother say that she couldn’t go to church “looking like this.” I think it had something to do with her jacket that she was trying to repurpose. That applied to fashion as well. Good thing that has changed or the church pews could be empty. Easter was the pinnacle of fashion. New York has fashion week. Down here we have fashion Sunday. Like everything, there are good and not so good things about this state of (Southern) mind.

White gloves, mustard seed necklaces, black or white patent leather shoes and an Easter bonnet were the must-haves in my childhood. The dresses changed from year to year but not the accessories. Those were standard. As I approached my thirteenth birthday I was determined to change my look and march into young womanhood with my own personal statement.

The teen girls of my church gathered at the bottom of the sanctuary steps to giggle, gossip and flirt with the boys who ran up the steps to sit with their families. This was the adolescent version of preparation. I had been observing this ritual for months leading up to Easter Sunday. I knew that would be my opportunity to finally ease into this exclusive club. I had to look like I belonged.

I would need to ditch the Mary Jane patent leather shoes for sure. I could talk my mom in to a more mature looking dress that she produced from her Singer sewing machine. No netting under the dress this year. Those were easy challenges. Gloves and necklace were not worth fighting about. I was planning my argument for a new bonnet…NOT! No more wide brimmed straw with ribbon and plastic flowers. That was a flaming beacon that screamed little girl! That had to go! How to accomplish it would take some planning.

The Girls Club at the bottom of the church steps required a wide headband with a few understated embellishments adorning the velveteen crown. The visible distinction between girlhood and young womanhood was the veil. I had to navigate my way to wearing one of these. I could change everything else, and the girls would not notice. I had to walk up to them in my veiled crown. Then, and only then, they would part the waters and welcome me as a member of the club.

I was willing to sell my soul to achieve that moment. I carefully chose my battles with my parents. This was the year of conflicts as I ran head first, into being a teenager. For this Sunday I was willing to compromise and concede. I wore the white gloves, necklace and not so grown-up blue flowered, polished cotton dress. I stopped talking about shaving my legs for a week. I had a mission to complete.

Easter Sunday morning arrived. I could hardly wait for us to park in the church parking lot. I was ready to take the walk from childhood to young womanhood. I heard the giggles as I stepped out of my family car. The colors were vibrant and beautiful. The boys were circling, punching one another and mumbling under their breaths. I approached the girls with confidence and excitement. My headband was robin’s egg blue with white cloth flowers on each side. The white veil was carefully attached and flowed over the band with grace and elegance. The girls turned, spoke my name and welcomed me. In my Easter bonnet.

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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2 Responses to “In My Easter Bonnet”

  1. You took me back to my childhood, mustard seed necklaces, Easter bonnets, and a potted Pansy from my Sunday School teacher. Loved this nostalgic essay.

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