Friday, April 10, 2009

How Judy Garland torpedoed my life

Sunday is Easter. It's not a favorite holiday for me, but not for the food and the company. In my childhood Easter was dinner after church at my mom's mom and dad. Traditionally the meal was ham with a condiment of horseradish stirred into unsweetened whipped cream, grandma's chili sauce, cottage potatoes, vegetable and dessert. It was wonderful. Grandma and grandpa didn't have a long dining room table that could seat everyone so there was often a children's table. The children in question were me and my two younger sisters. The table was set as nicely as the adult designated table but we had the distinct impression that dining with us wasn't a high point of dinner. We were just us, typical kids with pranks, bickering and laughter. Our conversation was pretty mundane and childish. However, as in fairy tales a knight came to our aid. Invariably Dad or Grandpa would opt to sit with us and we had a very fun time.

Holidays in the 50's were always painful in one respect. We had to dress up. My youngest sister and I were the biggest protestors over this ritual. Our middle sister came to this naturally and actually seemed to enjoy wearing a scratchy ruffly, big slip, a fluffy dress with short sleeves, tight waist, a big skirt and of course it tied in the back. The ties were perfect targets for people to pull an end and untie the bow and we were rendered rumpled. Add to that the slippery bottomed shoes with anklets that creeped down your ankles and bunched at your heel so you could stop and pull them up after every 15 steps. It wasn't quite like foot binding but it was torture none the less.

The worst was the obligatory Easter hat that sat on your head with little clamps on the side to hold it in place. The last bit of accessorizing was the pair of gloves and a tiny purse. We have Judy Garland to thank for doing her part to continue this indignity. In one of her many musicals she sang a song called The Easter Parade. Singing about her &%^$*^ bonnet and prancing along, she touted the joys of Easter finery and that hat. I am not a hat person. I hate hats. The closest thing I will wear to a hat is a ball cap. A classic family photo captures the three Henry sisters on the front steps of our home. We are posed with our new dresses, shoes, gloves, shrugs - that's another story - and our hats. Of the three of us the only one with her hat on straight is my middle sister. My youngest sister had her hat tipped to the side of her head, her shrug off kilter and her purse clutched at her naval. I was a 50's approximation of Mamie Eisenhower with a hat with a slight brim clamped on the top of my head. I even had Mamie Eisenhower bangs! Dad trimmed our bangs and his method included holding down the bangs with the flat of his palm while he trimmed the bangs. When he removed the hand securing the bangs the hair popped back in a slight curl under further shortening them. Mamie Eisenhower in the flesh.

Please do not read into this that my parents and extended family were anything less than wonderful to us. This experience was a product of the culture of those times and culture and time before then. Lee who hales from the state of Texas recounts her own trials with dresses. Pictures of her in dresses have been carefully locked away never to see the light of day, lest her seeing the picture trigger an unfortunate incident. I know in my DNA that parents have dressed their children for special events since the beginning of clothing and it continues to today.

I wouldn't be honest if I failed to confess my own motherly sins in this regard. Yes, I have dressed my children in holiday finery. Jen really suffered as a preschooler and can recount her scars today about a kelly green smock dress with loud contrasting fabric pockets and huge collar. To make matters even worse (is that possible?)the dress came with a pair of knit tights with multicolored horizontal stripes. Like generations of moms before me I thought she looked precious in an outfit I found to be truly unique. I broke the mold in one respect. Jen was saved after the baby bonnet stage from wearing frilly hats. Jen is now expecting and will meet her new daughter in May. And so time marches on and a new mother-daughter takes her place in the line of mother daughter trials. I'll be wearing my jeans or a pair of khakis and watching this continuing saga unfold.

Horseradish Sauce

1/2 pint whipping cream
prepared horseradish

Whip the cream in a cold mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. As you lift the beaters from the cream the peaks will hold their shape.Gently fold in horseradish. The zest and sharp tone of the sauce is yours to determine. If you really love horseradish, drain the horseradish to remove excess moisture. Too much liquid added will render the sauce to the consistency of a batter rather than something that when spooned on a plate would hold its shape.


  1. I would love to see a photo of this Easter outfit!!!! I know I could share one with you. I'll have to send it to your e-mail. Ahhh the 50' ever did we gals survive???? As always, we parallel!

  2. poor judy garland. but i guess we all need someone to blame. can't wait to see your bonnet! but please, not anklets.

  3. What an absolute delight to read your account of the trials of wearing your Easter finery. You are such a gifted writer. Donna