Labor Day: A Black/White Issue

There’s something very specific that happens the day after Labor Da and it involves my mother and her fashion backward thinking.ย . You see, my sainted mumsie was/is a stickler for that old, “No wearing anything white after Labor Day/no wearing black after Easter” routine. It was so driven into my head that if I see someone clad in white later today, I’ll have a visceral reaction. I try to fight it, but it’s ingrained. It’s part of my core being.

I have learned to be far more forgiving of this, but my mother needless to say, is older than old school. She will not negotiate on her opinion of this formidable fashion faux pas, despite the fact that Cosmo, Glamor and a cadre of designers, along with tragically hip and chic gay men have deemed it to be no longer applicable in the world of modern haute couture.

“They’re wrong”, says Mother.

CHAPTER ONE

What happens on the day after Labor Day in my mother’s house, is as predictable as the phases of the moon; as predictable as knowing Brad and Angelina adopt in years ending in odd numbers and as predictable as knowing emphatically that pudgy Hollywood galoot and shit stirrer, Michael Moore never skips a meal.

If it is the day after Labor Day, then my mother will be doing what she always does. She’ll spend five to six hours of the 24 that Father Time gives us in a day, by rearranging her closet. She’ll remove all things white, light and summery and replaced them with all things heavy, dark and wintry.

That which is taken away is carefully wrapped in white tissue paper and put in cardboard boxes or in plastic multi-drawer compartments, then placed in a shelf in her closet, never to appear again until Peter Cottontail emerges from his springtime sabbatical to hide brightly colored ova in deserving front yards.

PROLOGUE

My sisters and I were raised as proper Texas young ladies. Karnes City, Texas to be exact. Our hair was shampooed and our skin was scrubbed clean until our skin glowed (and considering the vast amounts of uranium that found in subterranean South Texas in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I mean that both figuratively AND literally). We were impeccably dressed. Shirts that were flawlessly pressed and pants with creases so sharp, you could use them to slice with deli-like precision, anything canned by Hormel.

Our dresses were designed and sewn to perfection and then there was the full compliment of couture accoutrement por le petite femmes–I’m talking gloves, lace socks, crinoline petticoats, patent-leather Mary Janes with matching bags and of course, hats in church. You see, we were Catholic and this was South Texas and pre-Vatican II.

We took tap and ballet and piano lessons and voice lessons and we each learned to play an instrument and were all cheerleaders and the list of parental requirements and mandates that we HAD to achieve and/or accomplish before we reached the age of majority, reads like a scroll.

My mother poked and prodded and made me read and write and think and create. By the 5th grade, I knew things most college Sophomores didn’t. That’s the way it was. My mother’s fiendish plot to isolate me socially was working.

In fact, my senior year in High School, I was voted, “Most Likely To Wear A Monocle”.

EPILOGUE

You know that “black after Labor Day/white after Easter” stuff I mentioned in the prologue? Well, it carried over in our lives; not just with what we wore. It was about how we lived; it was about the way we lived.

Again, I will reiterate- my mother was a stickler.

At summer picnics, I was forbidden to eat a sandwich that was made on Rye or Pumpernickel and I was ONLY allowed to date Black guys from September through mid April.

Happy Labor Day, ya’ll.

.

2 comments

  1. Hi Laurie,
    That’s a wonderful description small-town life here in southern Texas in the 1960s – and maybe earlier, too. I enjoyed reading it a lot. And I think at least some of what you nention – the education within the family – is missing for a lot of youngsters today. In more than one way children are what their parents make of them – or don’t.
    Regards from KC,
    Pit
    P.S.: And it reminds me of the way my parents brought me up back in Germany in the 1950s. What I am today I owe to them.

  2. Memories of growing up “proper” which I did my damnedest to circumvent at all times. My beloved sister however, being the oldest and therefore the one that caught all of the experimentation on being a “Proper” young lady did not. That, and me and my younger two siblings being boys helped a bunch. Never did have to wear patent Mary Janes. ๐Ÿ™‚

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