Blonde On The Prairie: Memories of an old-time Easter Bonnet
Raise your hand if you knew my mom Pat (Kranz) Larson. She was born in 1930. That’s an important piece of trivia. I think that particular era explains what I’m about to share with you. She escaped her Electric Mobility Scooter and I’m certain was gifted working legs in the sky once she arrived. She’s in Heaven now. Most of you only knew my mom from her scooter days after she had her stroke. She called it her Cadillac. She was the woman who would drive around the town with that extremely decorated electric scooter. At Christmas her friend would even accentuate it with flashing, battery operated lights. You could see her from a good half a mile driving herself to the VFW to play BINGO even when it was below zero. The front of the scooter had a large basket that always had some sort of thing-a-ma-jigger attached to it. That mother of mine wasn’t a conservative one when it came to how she dressed or scooted. She always gravitated to things with pizzazz and creativity. The stroke didn’t take that from her. It did-however-gift her the scooter. Her basket got some of her best designs. Every holiday was paid proper honor on my mom’s electric scooter basket. All of that creativity was with only one hand that was useable. She was right handed but lost most of the use of it when she had her stroke. That didn’t hold her back. She just trained her left hand to do most things. The resilience of this little woman who had nine living children and lost a few too seems incomprehensible. She had a little face but a big brain. To cover that brain she almost always wore a hat.
Now this hat obsession didn’t begin after the stroke. I wasn’t paying attention but it wouldn’t surprise me if she were wearing a hat when she delivered me at the Jamestown Hospital. So too would it not surprise me if she had the doctor holding a hat to put on me the second my head popped out. Mother found hats appropriate for any and all occasions. She grew up in the era where women dressed like women head to toe. Maybe you did too? What I remember very vividly growing up is my mom making me clothing. She had a Pall Mall cigarette hanging out of her mouth as she fiddled with the bobbin of the sewing machine. She would buy some fabric and sew us matching dresses on the old Singer. The dresses she sewed without using a pattern were never just something one colored or plain. She would use obnoxious trims and bobbles and even feathers across the neckline. I went to school plenty of times with doilies cut and sewn onto my collar with beads glued on. Uffda did that itch my neck! She would make a dress for herself and for me but she wouldn’t stop there. No dress was complete without a matching hat, scarf or headband. I preferred the headbands but didn’t mind the scarf. The scarves usually hid the bowl haircuts I had by her hand. “It’s a pixie cut and it’s cute,” she’d reassure me. It was cuter under the scarf with lace sewed for flair. As a child I never felt confident in a hat. I was a very self-conscious kid. That hat just made me feel like I looked weirder than my buck teeth already assured me I was.
But “not just any” hat, scarf or headband would do for Easter Sunday. We grew up not rich which made us poor. At Easter a trip to K-mart was in order. I found that odd that she afforded something brand new just to put on my head which was already 8 years old. I had only one single choice as she took the headband and scarf option off the table. I had to pick out a hat, white patent leather-looking shoes and gloves. I hated wearing the hat. I hated wearing the shoes and the gloves seemed senseless to me. The one trait I had then that I still do now is I voiced my opinion. I threw my Jodi fit –at times kicking and screaming but mostly screaming without kicking. I was a screamer then. I had to be in order to be heard over so many siblings.
Now as Easter approaches I fall to my knees in shame. I chose as a child to waste my breath berating that mother of mine over her wish to dress me up at Easter. She suffered and died. I live. I have time to forgive others and myself like I’ve been forgiven.
Easter is about renewal and hope and resurrection. My hatred of hats that I buried deep inside of me has risen too. Now I love hats. I wear them often and with confidence. I’ll be the one in the white hat and white high-heeled shoes this Easter Sunday crying at the hugeness of what forgiveness is really all about. Won’t you be forgiven with me? You’re worthy! Happy Easter 2012 and thank you for remembering my mom with me. She is really a hard one to forget just like that hat she made me wear on Easter 1974! Uff!
Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.