It’s funny how someone’s opinion or a story will stick with you, how it will trail like a mist of a cloud over your head.
It’s a story that hasn’t changed my behavior, but it certainly gives me pause to think of dressing for Easter in another way.
Years ago, about 10 years, I believe, I was on St. Simons Island in my annual post-Christmas trip. As usual, I toted a bag of books to read. One of them was a book called “Random Memories” by country music brothers Harold and Don Reid of the Statler Brothers. I enjoyed the book so much I moved on to their second book, “Sunday Morning Memories” about growing up in picturesque Staunton, Va., and their memories of small-town Sunday morning memories when church bells rang and people packed pews, all of them dressed in the Sunday best.
Don Reid, a good Christian man, Sunday school teacher and elder in his Presbyterian church, wrote about Easter. He wrote about its importance and how it stands for God’s greatest gift to mankind: the crucifixion of Christ and his Resurrection. Not new clothes. (Gulp).
“I will never have a new suit for Easter,” he wrote. “I always intentionally wear an old suit. Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection, not new clothes.”
I cleared my throat. I bit my lip. I tried to conjure up a sad conviction about the new dress, hat or suit I buy every Easter. In fact, the women in my family usually start immediately after Christmas, figuring out what they and their kids are going to wear.
A couple of years ago, I was hosting everyone for a big meal. While working in the kitchen, I overheard my godmother, Mary Nell, say, “Easter is in March this year. So, it’ll probably be cold.”
It was Thanksgiving.
Try as I might, I could not feel bad about the new clothes, which is the only time of year I feel compelled to buy something for a special occasion. It is not with joy that I shop for Easter clothes. It is with dread and a sense of duty because my Mama believed strongly in new Easter dresses. Perhaps the dread and duty that comes with it for me is recompense for the vanity. It’s more of a chore than a joy.
As fate would have it, in the surprising way that back mountain roads in the Appalachians can without explanation cross the more civilized streets of a Shenandoah Valley town, the Tinkers have become dear friends with the Reids. It is one of those friendships that was meant to be. From the first time we broke bread, we knew we would be one of those chummy couples who share values and beliefs and enjoy swapping the same kind of stories. We love Don and Debbie.
Though I admire him as one of country music’s greatest storytellers, I still cannot feel bad about buying a new Easter dress. I tried.
We were visiting with the Reids in their home one night, admiring a painting that hung over the fireplace. Underneath the painting, on the mantle, stacked perfectly, were all the books Don has written, including “Sunday Morning Memories.”
I smiled and told him how his story of wearing old Easter clothes had tapped on my heart and how often it crosses my mind.
“I think about that story every time I shop for Easter clothes,” I said.
He smiled back, paused for a moment, then asked softly, “Well, do you still buy an Easter dress?”
“Yes. Every year,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “That’s what you should do.”
He’s right. I should. Because if I didn’t, I’d be letting down Mama. That, of course, is certainly not as important as the Resurrection but Mama still rules me from beyond the grave. Just like Christ does.
May God bless your Easter.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.