Growing up, I lived in a poor community. Most people were farmers, and almost everyone who wasn’t worked as factory employees, had menial jobs or were unskilled labourers. So the general income level wasn’t very high. My father was an academic, a university professor and a research scientist. Although he wasn’t wealthy, with an income in the upper middle class range, in the village, by comparison to everyone else, he appeared super rich. And the kids always thought of us and referred to us as the dirty rich.
I remember, as a little girl, my mother always got me up very nicely whenever I went anywhere. I was like Carrie Anne Houghton. Even when I went out to play at the park, the other kids would be wearing the usual outfits kids wear to play in, T-shirts and shorts, that kind of thing. But my mother would always dress me in pretty dresses even just to go out to play.
Even to go to school, I always went stiffly done up in dressy blouses or fancy dresses, rather than what was considered more “normal attire” for a child my age.
Not surprisingly, that made life difficult for me. In addition to the stigma of always looking different from everyone else, it’s also not so easy to play in fancy dresses or long skirts. They’re not exactly the most adaptable kinds of outfits for traipsing around in a playground, climbing up ladders and trees or running around in the rain, all of which were activities which, like all kids, I loved to do.
Those long skirts would get in the way and get caught on everything when I tried to shinny up trees. Getting caught in a summer storm with my best friend, Bea*, who walked around much more practically dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, and instead of seeking shelter (like any sensible adult would have done), we stayed to run around in the rain and had a load of fun. The fact that I was wearing a pretty dress wasn’t a problem for me and didn’t bother me at all.
The problem came when we returned to Bea’s house and her mother hit the roof. Bea’s mother was aware of what a strict, iron-fisted disciplinarian my mother was, and she was terrified my mother would have a fit. Knowing what my mother was like, she was convinced my mother would never let me play with Bea again. Yes, just because Bea and I were playing in the rain.
(My mother did have a fit, not because I returned home looking like a drowned rat but rather because I arrived home late. My mother was very strict…… But then again that, and the wild adventures I shared with Bea, are fodder for future posts of an entirely different nature……)
I remember trying to climb up the ladder on some slides once and tripping over my long skirts all the time. (And in addition – velvet! Now I like velvet, but when I was a little girl, it was nothing but a right pain to romp around in playgrounds all dressed up in velvet!) I went up only once, tripping over the skirt with every step. And then when I got to the top, since the skirt was made of fuzzy velvet, it kept sticking to the metal sheet of the slide.
After only one attempt, the adults present made me sit down on one side for the rest of the afternoon and just watch as the other kids had a blast and had the time of their lives, while the only thing I got was to sit still and miss out on all the fun! I cried and cried and cried. (I was a very little kid at that time.)
That, basically, was the story of my entire childhood. Seemed my parents did everything within their power to make sure I never got to play. But as I’ve said before, that’s fodder for a different post.
As a child, I hated walking around looking like a miniature-sized adult. But now as a grown woman, I realize I really do appreciate my mother’s good taste and elegance. For a long time I used to hang out with hippies and as you know, hippies, in general, aren’t very well dressed or elegant.
But now I’ve become aware of how stunning my mother really could be when she wanted to. Her tastes were more classical than mine. After all I’m a Sagittarian so a bit eclectic. But now I realize how much she could teach me and has taught me about how to be elegant, how to have class, how to look and act like a lady.
As a child I didn’t care for that sort of thing. But now, as an adult, I realize how important it really is. It really is important for a woman to look and act elegant. To exhibit good taste in everything, from the way you look to the way you behave and act towards other people. After all, no one likes to hang out with a pig.
I can see, reading over this post, that there’s a lot more autobiography in Patricia than I realized. When you write, ideas just come to you, and you don’t wonder or question where they come from. But of course, these ideas and memories are always there. Always within you, inside your mind. In your unconscious. And they come to the surface when you do things like write stories.
* not her real name