Monday, April 4, 2011

Little Green Dresses: A Lenten Reflection

"[The other disciple] bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself." John 20:4-5 (NRSV)

My mother believed as long as you had soap (even homemade from scraps) and water, you had no excuse for being dirty. We seldom got clothes from department stores. Mommy regularly dressed us in clothes from the Charity Newsies, Salvation Army, or St. Vincent De Paul's. Sometimes the clothes hung off our shoulders or hung loosely around our waists, but we were always clean.  I remember one winter my mother walked from one side of Columbus to the other to get winter coats for us. At times it was more difficult to get our clothes even from the thrift stores, particularly when my mother was ill.

This might have been the case the year Ms. Vy Evans brought my older sister and myself matching bright lime green dresses with short puffed leaves and accordion pleats from below the bust down. We got a lot of use out of those fancy department store dresses. My mother kept our dresses clean. When we couldn't afford to go to the laundry mat, she had an old scrub board. She (sometimes we) placed our clothes in a tub of water and used the scrub board (and sometimes homemade lye or scrap soap) to wash our clothes; and probably those lime green dresses too. We hung them on the clothes line so that the purifying rays of the sun would dry them. We must have kept those dresses until they fell apart from washing or we could no longer fit them, whichever came first.  I remember hearing a church sister at my grandmother's church telling another church sister,  "those children wear the same dresses all the time." We were still in elementary school. She hurt my feelings and I carried those bruises for sometime.  We were clean and our hair was combed. But that was not enough for those church sisters.

I'm sure some well-meaning parents are saving up for or laying away easter clothes for themselves and their children because they want to fit in with everybody else who will be strutting down the church isles in their new Easter outfits. I'm sure that the church sister's comment about our little green dresses had a lasting impact on me so much so that I for years uncritically prepared for and marched in the Easter fashion show and thought I should donate an easter outfit to some worthy child. (Poor children need clothing all near around.) But I no longer feel the need to buy a new Easter outfit at all and certainly not at all cost. God loves ME and is able to make me clean and keep me clean. Clean is good! I am grateful for the power of God that informs and reminds me that I am somebody regardless of and in spite of my clothing and accessories. The clothing I wear or cannot wear has not the power to free me from the oppressions of others or of my own self-hatreds and sense of inferiority.  The clothing I wear or cannot wear does not guarantee that somebody won't talk about me or look down upon me. Clothing will not lift me out of the grave of disrespect and/or abuse afflicted upon me because I dare to live, dare to be me;  dare to speak my mind; or  dare to struggle against evil where I see it. Clothing is nothing more than a temporary covering. No matter how much money we put into clothing, it will not do for us that which only God can do for us--lift us up out of the many tombs that would draw the life out of us.  "You can have the clothes," my God declares, "but you can't have her."  Those little green dresses were nice, for as long as they lasted. But as with all clothes and material goods their usefulness is limited and temporary. They have no saving grace.


oil painting lessons said...

I like your blog. Great Article....Daniel

WomanistNTProf said...

Thank you Daniel. Thanks for visiting and reading. Come back soon and/or join.