Easter is getting closer and closer. I’ve thought a lot these days about last year and how I wanted so badly for each of the children who attend Sunday School to have new Easter clothes. They have so little when it comes to nice things, and I felt like it was one time we could buy clothes for them without offending their parents. (I can’t say that was one of my most successful endeavors. But that is another story.) At least we tried!
I mean, EVERYONE knows that people get new clothes for Easter.
The thing is, I’m not big on “new for Easter” for myself. We seldom did it for our children either. But then, neither were my parents. In thinking about this, I may trace some of my indifference to new Easter clothing to a painful memory. One of the many times I have wished for a second chance with my adolescent self.
My Daddy and Mama worked hard. My Sweet Mama, especially. Looking back, I know that there were many, many times when she felt inadequate when it came to some of the things that she considered important. For one thing, she didn’t like to sew. In those years, it was almost a mark of your Christianity that you sew all your own clothing. If you had daughters, it was equally important that you sewed their dresses, too.
To be honest, Mama was a good seamstress. Probably it was her perfectionist qualities that made her feel like it took too long, was too hard, and that she didn’t have time. When she took time, there was always something phenomenal to show for her labor. I think I was pretty hard on dresses. For instance, I remember coming home from school in about third grade and overhearing my mama say to my daddy, “I think Mary Ann just might be growing up a little. Her dress isn’t ripped every night when she comes in from school!”
But I loved new dresses. And it didn’t escape me that some of my many cousins and many of my friends got new dresses for Easter. I knew that Daddy and Mama held to the fact that new dresses for Easter was unnecessary, and while it wasn’t “wrong” it did border on “worldly.”
Mama worked out a LOT on the farm, helping Daddy with farm chores, feeding chickens, milking and such. I remember that there was many a Saturday night when she would scrub and wax her kitchen floor after we children were in bed. In addition to working outside, she liked for the farmhouse that she and Daddy had remodeled in 1958 to be clean for Sunday. She often had company for Sunday dinner, and Daddy was so proud of his pretty wife, and the meals she would put on the table. She just did so many things well.
But because she worked so hard, there were times when the tired lines in her forehead were deepened and the weariness would walk with her as she finished yet another thing, big or little, before she would let herself sleep.
I was often reading when I should have been helping. Or pretending that I was some athlete, performing for adoring crowds, or writing letters to interesting penpals that seemed to always eventually disappoint me. There were a hundred ways that I could have helped to carry the burdens if I had only been observant. Or thinking. But who is thinking or even observant, when you are in the throes of adolescence and self centered?
I remember as if it was yesterday, one Easter morning coming downstairs to find my Sweet Mama, working on the Easter meal that we would have after church. I don’t think it was elaborate and I don’t know that there was company coming, but in those days, if you had six children and you went to church on Sunday morning, you always prepared– always made food for when the long sermons were over and people were hungry.
She was standing between the kitchen sink and the kitchen table, I was standing at the opening between the dining room and kitchen, by the little telephone stand under the tall, narrow mirror. And I was feeling put upon and grumpy.
“Mama,” I said, standing there in my housecoat. (In our family, you never appeared outside your bedroom unless you were clothed (if you were a boy) or at least in a housecoat (if you were a girl). “What dress am I supposed to wear today?” I knew there were no new ones for me or my two little sisters.
She looked up from what she was doing, standing there in the morning light from the window. “I don’t know, Mary Ann,” she said, and I remember that she looked tired. “Maybe you can wear your blue one.” (I’m not sure of the color, here, but let’s just use “blue.”)
“But, Mama,” I protested. “I’m not sure that one is clean.” In those days, you hung up your dresses after wearing them until they looked like they needed washing.
“It’s not dirty,” she said. “I’m sure it will be okay.”
And this is what I will regret as long as I have memory. I got angry. “Mama,” I said, burst out spitefully, “you would think that if I couldn’t have a new dress for Easter, I could at least have a clean one!”
My Sweet Mama’s face!!! I was sorry the minute the words were out of my mouth. Hurt, sorrow, sadness washed over her pretty face as I stood there, miserable and ashamed.
“Oh, Mary Ann,” she finally said and her voice was quiet. “You have it all wrong. It isn’t about dresses. It’s about what Jesus did for us on the cross and Him getting alive again . . .” She may have said a whole lot more, but I don’t remember.
What I do know is that something changed in my heart at that very instant. I honestly would never again think that I needed a new dress for Easter. The whole thing of getting new clothes just never held the fascination for me again. And while there have been times when I will get a new dress on sale in the spring and decide to hold it for Easter, it hasn’t been often, and it has never been important.
And while I may use it as an excuse to buy clothes or gifts for needy kids that I love, it is never about the new clothes or the Easter Baskets or Cadbury eggs.
I DID have it all wrong.
It isn’t about dresses.
It’s all about what Jesus did for us on the cross and Him getting alive again.
And I have staked all that matters and my very soul on this one thing:
HE IS RISEN, AS HE SAID.