Mother Had Easter All Sewn Up

Easter, the most important of the Christian holidays, celebrates, among other things, love and sacrifice. That’s why at Easter, I can’t help but remember my mother and her sacrifices for me.

Back when I was a little girl in Texas, Easter was a time to really dress up, something we don’t do much anymore. My mother, always the perfectionist, made sure her girls wore beautiful dresses. The epitome of a homemaker, Mother would’ve surely put all those talented TV moms to shame. June Cleaver, Harriett Nelson, Carol Brady, step aside for Eunice Logan. Though she was a rock star in the kitchen, Eunice’s real forte was sewing.

A child of the Depression, she felt that spending good money on “bought ready-made” clothes was ridiculous “when I can make them better myself.” Mother sewed most all of my sister’s and my clothes, not to mention clothes for our dolls. As we got older we would request different clothes and accessories that she would make for us. My sister even went through a metal-loving phase so she had to find the best sewing machine for canvas and leather to make her skirts and jackets! She also excelled in costumes and prom dresses, but my favorite of her sewing projects came at Easter time. Those looking to sew something themselves, or just make a start learning how to do so, may want to consider using some of the embroidery designs found online to begin practicing and for craft projects.

Both novel and practical was a special nook Mother had built into her and Dad’s bedroom. It was customized to house her prized black Singer sewing machine. We always knew where she was by the whirring of the foot pedal that would drive the Singer’s needle and thread into a perfect ruffle or buttonhole. Countless yards of fabric and pieces of trim lay in piles on the bed behind her awaiting a future as one of her coveted creations.

Her fittings were painful, though. I would stand on the coffee table while she pinned the hem inch by tortuous inch. Wiggling or whining got me nowhere. “Turn now. Not too much,” she’d direct. “Susan, stand up straight or the hem will be crooked.” An “accidental” straight pin to the leg would quickly adjust my attitude.

The finished product of Mother’s hard work always proved worth the fittings. The dresses were spectacular. My sister Sara and I could choose our favorite color and, as we got older, pick the style from the Butterick patterns. Sometimes it was gingham with eyelet trim or organdy with lace or just plain polished cotton with ruffled sleeves.

There were accessories, too: white socks with lace trim, black or white patent leather Mary Janes, white gloves, a pearl or cross necklace, a small clutch bag and some sort of hat perched atop our heads. (Mother slicked my ponytail so tight my eyes changed shape.)

I woke up early on Easter Sundays eager to put on “the dress,” but fashion had to wait until after the backyard Easter egg hunt in our robes. It was more “race” than “hunt.” Sara, the elder and faster, scooped up most of the dyed eggs into her basket – even my treasured purple ones. (I later evened the score.) I also recall a time when the egg search ended abruptly and tearfully because of the early morning “doo” on the grass – thanks to our dachshund Fritzy.

But, finally, with church service looming, Mother began getting us dressed. Her unmanicured hands, red from needle pricks and fabric burn, buttoned our buttons and tied our bows so Dad’s Brownie camera could capture us posing and grinning on the front walkway by the shrubs.

These small, now faded color prints would serve as amusement for future generations, but for me they’re reminders of the sacrifice and love sewn into those precious handmade dresses, long gone like the art of sewing. Mother’s been gone from this world since 2006, and she is missed. I like to imagine her up in heaven whirring away on her old revved-up Singer, sewing flowing brocaded garments with golden thread for the angels.

Happy Easter.