Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dressing Down the Decades
1945
I Always Wore White

When I was a little girl, there were no modern fabrics, certainly not wash and wear. It was during and just after WWII and factory production was all for the war effort, so although my father was making good money working in the ship yards, no washing machines were to be had and my mother had to do the wash on a scrub board. She always dressed me in white. Many of my dresses had eyelet or lace on them. Just the sort of thing to get dirty or torn easily. And I was not a clean child. I was up trees and down holes and through pipes and into everything. Torn lace and dirty bodices were my standard expression. (The reason my hair is done in Shirley Temple ringlets is that I was born on her birthday. Shirley, Shakespeare, and me. So, now you understand.)


And the worst of it was when we went to visit my Grandmother Hunt in the fall and the pomegranates were ripe. I think Grandma had around ten pomegranate trees. To this day, I can't resist pomegranates. Picture me, three years old, in my little white dress, hiding under the tree and eating pomegranates. Even with modern washing products, there is no getting that juice out of white cotton. Now picture my mother trying to scrub those stains out of my dresses on the board. Now picture me being scolded. And now, knowing me, first picture me with newspaper tucked into my collar trying to protect my dress that way. Do you see the newsprint on my dress along with the purple juice? Then picture me, naked as the day I was born, eating the fruit, getting juice all over my body, and then picking up my clothes with my hands still wet and leaving purple handprints all over them.

Finally, picture me, purple stained from stem to stern, trying to figure out how my mother knew that I had been sneaking pomegranates.

18 comments:

saz said...

I love this story...surely that sweet prim little girl in the picture wouldn't get dirty - would she?

And my mom used to take a spoon - heat it over a gas stove flame then put it into the puff sleeves of our dresses and iron as well as puff that little sleeve...boy are we free today!

Ally Bean said...

didn't shirley temple have a certain proscribed number of ringlets? i thought i read that somewhere.

as if curling a little girl's hair isn't enough trouble to begin with!

love the photo and the post.

Never That Easy said...

2 things: 1st, regardless of the mess, if a kid is eating fruit voluntarily, there should be joy (can you tell that Youngest Nephew's not exactly a fruit fan?)

Second, great post! Look how cute little you is! Ringlets are very underrated nowadays. :)

Maya's Granny said...

Saz, My parents were lucky that sweet prim little girl stayed clean long enough for the photographer to take her picture. They probably took me to the studio in a crate! I mean, look at it -- the dress is not only clean but untorn. I'm told that was a major miracle.

Chancy said...

Sweet Child--Sweet picture.

I remember wearing dresses when I was a small child. Girls then simply did NOT wear shorts or pants. My dresses were not white and were simply cut, sometimes a jumper style. My first pair of pants (jeans) came when I was in high school and my girlfriends and I bought them in the boys department and rolled up the hems.
Those jeans were Levis and they lasted forever.( I wish I still had them as vintage Levis bring a premium now)

We felt quite rakish in our jeans. Of course we were not allowed to wear them to school.

Autumn's Mom said...

That's a great pic. I loved pomegranates when I was little. Then I grew up and didn't like the mess. How sad.

Gina said...

I can only imagine the frustration you visited upon your mother!

Deja Pseu said...

Why oh why did your mother insist on white dresses??? Was that just de rigeur for those days?

Cherry said...

What a great story!
Now I want pomegranates. I too used to love them as a kid, but haven't picked one up as a treat for years.

My mom used to make ringlets in my hair with pin curls that I'd sleep on (or hardly sleep on I should say). Ugh, the agony of my hair being pulled and then sleeping on a helmet of bobby pins.

How did they get the ringlets in your hair?

Maya's Granny said...

Actually, when I was little my hair was curly (as oppossed to wavy like it is now) and Mama only had to comb the ringlet in -- of course, as soon as I went out to play they were shaken out.

The way I eat pomegranates without worrying about the mess is, I cover up in an old, navy blue terry cloth bathrobe and have at it. When I stayed with my mother in the fall two years ago she was very impressed with this solution and we agreed that it was too bad she hadn't thought of it when I was little.

Why did she dress me in white? Well, she was 19 when I was born and my Great-Aunt Julia always said that for the first few years she treated me like her favorite doll. Which is screamingly funny, since she had been a tomboy herself! I think that when she got married ahe decided that now it was time to settle down and do things "right" and there was Shirley Temple as a model of what little girls should look like.

laluna said...

Oh you looked so sweet. I love reading your story.

Maya's Granny said...

La Luna,
What a great disguise a white dress and ringlets is! I don't think I would call me sweet. Maybe, in the moments when I sat still, but I was such a busy little girl that mostly I was a female Dennis the Menace -- lovable and funny and charmning, but not really sweet. Although my mother, she of the scrub board and hard work, would say that I was and still am sweet. But then, she still calls me Joy Baby when she forgets I'm grown up.

Melissa said...

I love that picture and that story. And now I want a pomegranate...I will have to make do with the Pomegranate Frappichino from Starbucks. Have you tried that? It is really good.

Maya's Granny said...

Melissa,
We don't have Starbucks here in Alaska, but I mix pomegranate juice with grapefruit juice almost every evening. Pomegranates and their juice are extremely good anti-oxidants and also an internal sunburn prevention food. However, the juice, all by itself, is a bit strong for me and the fruit is only available in the fall. Almost, but not yet.

donna said...

Sweet picture! You look so much like Maya in her little white dress on your sidebar...

I like pomegranate juice in my green tea in the morning. But don't like eating pomegranates themselves because of the seeds...

Anna said...

A delicious post, you were obviously a kid with brains, stripping off as a solution. I'm still a 'two T-shirts a day' messy eater and stripping for meals might be a neat idea. Though it would certainly put other diners off their food.

Maya's Granny said...

Anna,
A few years later, when we lived in Puerto Rico, I discovered that the way to eat a really ripe mango is to strip, get in the shower, eat, toss the pit into a waste paper basket, and take a shower. They're never that ripe when we get them here.

jay lassiter said...

i can't wait till you get to the 1970's!!
p.s. hey Granny, since you have comment moderation, you typically don't need to use word verification which can be a barrier to some possible commenters. any spam you might get as a result of the wordverification being deactivated can be weeded out by you as you moderate.

i switched to haloscan and love it. the only drawback is you lose all the preexisting comments although a copy of the template should be available if you hated it it and wanted to start from scratch.

please don't mind my presumptuousness. i hope i am not out of line to suggest this.