Two rather disturbing things happened during our family Easter last year, both of which I hope can be corrected this year.
First of all, I am the only woman in my family who wore a hat. It has been a long standing tradition for most of us to wear hats. Yet, there I showed up in one of the loveliest bonnets of my long and storied Easter career for the annual family parade and I was the only one wearing one.
"I can’t believe that nobody else has a hat on!" I exclaimed, clucking my tongue in disapproval.
My brother-in-law, Rodney, looked very sad. "We didn’t have one hat at church today." He said it very solemnly.
Rodney, like most men, loves to see women in hats. In fact, it’s Rodney’s annual Easter remark that can be counted on as surely as the honey-baked ham that graces the table. He always says, "I love women in hats."
Well, I was the only one he could love last year because I’m the only one who wore one. Now, of course, mine was pretty enough to make up for three hats but still quantity counts more than quality in this case.
The big brimmed hat trimmed in pale green and blue was actually a gift from Monica Harrigill of the Jackson, Miss., Symphony League. Monica was chairwoman the League’s luncheon for which I was the keynote speaker and she had overseen the very Southern decorations.
One of the props was this gorgeous hat, so when I raved about it, she said, "It’s yours. I’ll mail it to you."
I have dozens of hats, but I love that one so much that it stays on constant display in a guest bedroom.
Again, I will be wearing a hat for Easter because I’d rather wear white shoes after Labor Day than miss wearing my Easter bonnet.
The other disturbance almost traumatized me. We took pictures and then everyone filed back into the house and spilled out into the kitchen. I came breezing in and noticed that someone had already changed clothes.
"Why have you changed your clothes?" I asked. "We haven’t done our Easter parade video yet."
A couple of folks shrugged it off then someone said rather nonchalantly that Rodney’s camcorder was broken so we couldn’t do it.
"We have to do it!" I practically screamed. "It’s tradition. We can’t not do it." I was beside myself. "Listen, I’m superstitious. We have to do it. What if it’s someone’s last Easter and we don’t record it?"
I carried on so that finally my nephew went to his house, got his camcorder and played along.
No one was particularly enthused but they played along, filed out of the house, waved and smiled for the camera.
It would turn out to be my brother’s and my Mama’s last Easter.
When Louise and I were cleaning out Randall’s things, I found an unlabeled VHS tape. When I played it, I discovered it was a compilation of years of Easter parades. I pulled my feet up into the chair and tucked in to watch moments of memories, filled with those now gone.
Oh, what a lovely sight it was: big hats, big hair, big fashion, big bellies thanks to pregnancies and big smiles.
There was Daddy hugging his girls, Randall pinching and aggravating, Mama prissing around prettily and the overall ebullient happiness of family holidays that spilled over on film. As an item of importance, it’s worthless to most but priceless to us.
"Precious memories," Rodney said as he filmed one parade.
Yes, they are. That’s why the camcorder and the hats have to return this year.
Precious memories of precious loved ones and pretty hats have to be documented.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.